Tuesday, November 18, 2014

FIFA cannot break its own rules (except when it suits FIFA to do so)

"Once again, we have examined this matter very, very carefully from a legal point of view. The result was clear: if FIFA were to publish the report, we would be violating our own association law as well as state law. The people who are demanding in the media and elsewhere that FIFA publish the report are obviously of the opinion that FIFA should or must ignore the law in this regard. We obviously cannot do that."

The above is a direct quote attributed to FIFA President Sepp Blatter in the statement released today in his answer to the fifth question on FIFA's own website. This statement makes it very clear that in the opinion of President Blatter, FIFA cannot violate its own association law.

I find this interesting, given what I read in Section 4.1.3 (Bid Books) in the 42-page report released by Judge Eckert.

A binding legal character.

More than empty promises.

So what was in Qatar's bid?


"Fans, players and officials will be able to enjoy cool and comfortable open-air conditions, not exceeding 27 degrees Celsius, it added."

There was no mention of playing the tournament at any time other than June or July, because everyone accepted that, as Sepp Blatter put it:

"... they (other bidding countries) signed the exact same bidding documents (the bid registration agreement) as Qatar did, must know that point 1.2.1. stipulates that the 22nd edition of the FIFA World Cup is 'scheduled to take place' in June and/or July of 2022 'in principle'. (My italics)

So what does 'in principle' mean? Here's a definition from dictionary.com.

In case that's not clear enough, here's another one.

So "scheduled to take place in June/and or July of 2022 in principle" means the tournament must be held in those two months. The details of which particular days in June and July are left to the host nation to decide.

So when President Blatter added, "It does not say that it 'must' take place in those months. What the document does, is express FIFA's wish to host the World Cup in June or July," he was either wrong or (more likely) being deliberately misleading.

He has, of course, since made numerous statements that the 2022 World Cup Finals will not be held in June and July.

How does this fit in with the claim in today's statement that FIFA cannot violate it's own law?

President Blatter loves to use the convenience of the law, but only when it suits his own purposes.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The 2018/2022 World Cup Finals Hosting Bid and Corruption

The recent story in the Daily Telegraph alleging that former CONCACAF supremo Jack Warner and his sons were paid almost $2 million (£1.2m) from a Qatari firm linked to the country’s successful bid for the 2022 World Cup should come as no surprise.

We have known for years that the process for choosing World Cup hosting rights was corrupt. Back in 1999, when Germany was selected to host the 2006 World Cup, New Zealand and Oceania football boss was so flustered by the pressure and bribes he fled the building before the final vote, rather than have to cast a vote that would potentially have given the tournament to South Africa. Dempsey died without ever disclosing the full facts, but he noted that envelopes were slipped under his door and it's not too hard to make a pretty good guess as to what happened.

Even before the votes for 2018 and 2022, Reynaldo Temarii and Amos Adamu had been booted from the 24-man ExCo for being caught asking for bribes in exchange for votes.

England only managed to receive two votes in their bid for the 2018 World Cup Finals, despite being convinced that they had secured many more. On 10 May 2011, the former England 2018 bid chief, Lord Treisman told a House of Commons select committee that four FIFA committee members, amongst them Jack Warner and Nicolas Leoz, approached him asking for various things in exchange for votes. England also agreed to play a full international match in Trinidad in an attempt to win Warner's, and by extension, all of CONCACAF's votes.

That same day, The Sunday Times reported that two committee members, Issa Hayatou and Jacques Anouma were given $1.5 million in exchange for their votes in favor of Qatar. FIFA President Sepp Blatter rejected the evidence in a press conference after FIFA requested to see the evidence of the allegations.

As for Australia, meanwhile, a whistleblower has recently alleged that they paid A$462,200 into an account controlled by Warner in 2010 to upgrade the Marvin Lee Stadium in Macoya, Trinidad, a payment that was always intended to influence his vote rather than to fulfill any genuine philanthropic purposes. Warner allegedly used the payment for his own advantage rather than for the benefit of football in Trinidad.

Warner apparently was happy to take gifts from everyone. He didn't promise a vote in exchange; seemingly he just offered to CONSIDER a vote if he received a gift. No gift, no chance of a vote. Gift, maybe a vote, unless someone else gives a bigger gift.

Having appointed Peter Hargitay to assist with their bid (you can see more about his 'activities' here and on the four linked pages), Australia received just one vote.

In November 2010, a documentary broadcast by the BBC had alleged that FIFA officials voting on the World Cup bids had received large bribes between 1989 and 1999.

So what do we have here?

Firstly, the entire process for selecting World Cup hosting rights is/was a corrupt cesspool, where 24 all-powerful men got to choose the winners based on their own whim, which usually involved countless large 'favours' being offered by bidding countries in exchange for votes.

There was no written rubic for determining how the winning country should be selected, which is no surprise given FIFA's legendary lack of transparency, fairness and accountability. The voting process did not consider any critical prerequisites, such as adequate hotel rooms, infrastructure, or acceptable climatic conditions.

Instead, the ExCo members were free to give their vote to the highest bidder, without even having to disclose who they voted for, let alone why.

Secondly, it would appear that every bidding nation was probably guilty of playing the game. England and Australia are known to have offered gifts in exchange for votes, so they can't really complain about being rejected because other bids offered bigger or better gifts.

Thirdly, the decision to select both the 2018 and 2022 hosting countries at the same time resulted in collusion between bids (we'll vote for you if you'll vote for us) and Sepp Blatter has publicly admitted it was a mistake. I suspect that privately he is happy, because it gave himself and his ExCo cronies double the opportunity to receive 'inducements' in exchange for votes. Blatter thought he and some of the ExCo members wouldn't be standing for FIFA again and wouldn't get the chance to choose any more hosts so he (and they) happily brought the 2022 bid forward. This is my opinion of course, not a verifiable fact.

Fourthly, as much as anything, the hosting selection process is a failure of management and leadership. Blatter knew there were problems at least as far back as the 2006 bidding process, but did nothing to improve it. There were no measures introduced that would make it fair or transparent. No stated scoring rubric.No list of well-considered prerequisites.

Instead it was business as usual, or in other words, ExCo members making personal gain as a result of their 'elected' positions, in which they are supposed to be improving the game for their constituents, rather than lining their pockets.

Blatter, as President, is culpable. He had known their were problems with corruption, not just with the World Cup bidding process but also with issues like the ISL payments to Joao Havelange, Nicolas Leoz, et al. Yet he made no attempt to change the culture. As President (CEO if you will), that was one of his most important duties, and he failed miserably. Only when the clamour from the world had reached fever pitch did he consent to changes that would clean up the game, and these have been much too little and much too late.

He's almost certainly going to stand for election again. And he will probably win. And the game will be much the worse off for it.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Net Run Rate in Cricket and Simpson's Paradox

Here's what happens when a football fan with an understanding of numbers and a passing interest in paradoxes turns his mind to cricket. (I'm sure something similar was possible when goal average was used as a tie-breaker in football, before goal difference became the preferred method.)

Imagine a typical eight-team cricket tournament, where the teams are divided into two groups of four, and the top two teams in each group progress to the semi-finals. Final placings in each group are decided by points gained (two points for a win, one point for a tie or no result) with the first tie-breaker being net run rate.

After two rounds of matches in one of the groups, these are the results.

North 250/4 off 50 overs defeated South 230/8 off 50 overs by twenty runs.
East 101/2 off 14 overs defeated West 100/10 off 22.3 overs by eight wickets.
East 205/7 off 44.3 overs defeated North 200/10 off 47.1 overs by three wickets.
South 160/10 off 31.2 overs defeated West 150/10 off 46.4 overs by ten runs.

Remembering that when a team is bowled out it counts as fifty overs batted, and that the decimal equivalent of 44.3 overs is 44.5, at this stage, the points table is as follows:

East 2 2 0 4 306 58.5 5.231 300 100 3.000   2.231
South 2 1 1 2 390 100 3.900 400 100 4.000 -0.100
North 2 1 1 2 450 100 4.500 435 94.5 4.603 -0.103
West 2 0 2 0 250 100 2.500 261 64 4.078 -1.578

(M = Matches, W = Wins, L = Losses, P = Points, RS = Runs Scored, OB = Overs Batted, RRF = Run Rate For, RC = Runs Conceded, OF = Overs Fielded, RRA = Run Rate Against, NRR = Net Run Rate)

After two rounds, South and North are tied on points, but South are ranked narrowly ahead of North as the result of their better net run rate.

The third round of matches is then played, with the following results.

West 295/6 off 48 overs defeated North 294/4 off 50 overs by four wickets.
East 129/9 off 47 overs defeated South 125/10 off 21.3 overs by one wicket.

East now have three wins and therefore win the group.

West have joined North and South on one win, so net run rate will determine which of the three teams will finish second and progress to the semi-finals.

In this last round of games, West’s net run rate is 0.266, bringing their average net run rate over the three matches to -1.186. This will see West finish last in the group.

In the third round, South’s net run rate was -0.245, slightly better than North’s -0.266. South were already ahead of North on net run rate after two rounds, so one would expect that South would finish above North in the final standings.

But no! Amazingly, the overall net run rate for South is -0.165 while North’s is slightly better at -0.163. So even though South had a better net run rate than North after two matches, and achieved a better comparative net run rate in the third round, North finish with a better net run rate overall and progress to the semi-finals.

East 3 3 0 6 435 105.5 4.123 425 150 2.833   1.290
North 3 1 2 2 744 150 4.960 730 142.5  5.123 -0.163
South 3 1 2 2 515 150 3.433 529 147 3.599 -0.165
West 3 1 2 2 545 148 3.682 555 114 4.868 -1.186

This is an example of Simpson’s Paradox and shows how adding and averaging numbers can be fraught with peril.

What if instead of combining the scores from the three matches and then doing the net run rate calculation, we calculated each team’s net run rate compared to their opponents for each individual match and then added these together to create the NRR?

North’s run rates compared to their three opponents were 0.400, -0.607 and -0.266 for a combined total of -0.473.
South’s run rates compared to their three opponents were -0.400, 0.200 and -0.245 for a combined total of -0.445.

East 3 3 0 6 435 105.5 4.123 425 150 2.833 6.066
South 3 1 2 2 515 150 3.433 529 147 3.599 -0.445
North 3 1 2 2 744 150 4.960 730 142.5 5.123 -0.473
West 3 1 2 2 545 148 3.682 555 114 4.868 -5.149

So using this method, South would finish above North.

My personal feeling is that this is a fairer method of calculating net run rate and more accurately reflects the reality of what happened during the three matches. It certainly does a good job of depicting the thrashing East handed out to West in the first match.

It may also have some negatives I haven't thought of. Perhaps some statistical experts could provide their input.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Corruption throughout his Presidency, but Blatter thinks he's the man to steer FIFA, and who has the courage to stop him?

I recently came across an article on FIFA's own website, dated 29 January 2003, which if it weren't so sad, I would find quite funny. It is an interview with then recently-elected FIFA General Secretary, Dr Urs Linsi, and his answer to the first question is particularly ironic.

Partly it states: "In the first six months of 2002, FIFA attracted too much negative publicity, but this changed during and after the FIFA World Cup™ as we delivered a perfect tournament. In the last six months of the year, everything calmed down, both inside and outside FIFA, and we proved that FIFA is a healthy, clean and transparent organisation with nothing to hide."

Yes, you read that correctly.

FIFA proved it is a healthy, clean and transparent organisation with nothing to hide.

This was in 2003, remember, five years after Sepp Blatter was elected President, three years after the final illegal ISL payments were made to Joao Havelange, Ricardo Teixeira, Nicolas Leoz et al. (Sepp Blatter has now admitted he knew about a 1.5 million Swiss Franc payment to Havelange in 1997, although he feigned ignorance when asked about it by Andrew Jennings and did not divulge it to anyone) and a little over ten years before a slew of FIFA ExCo members were banned for various transgressions involving corruption and/or unethical behaviour.

Here's another quote from the Linsi interview: "There is huge public interest in FIFA, therefore we have to be as transparent as possible. We will try to communicate in a more open way concerning football matters so the world can believe us and be proud of their federation."

How did that work out? There is still a clamour for fairness, transparency and accountability, and it is only recently that Sepp Blatter has begun to even pretend to address this problem. Here we are, eleven years on, and the same old problems still exist. And everyone at FIFA knows and has always known that it is corrupt.

There is a telling comment by Tongan former FIFA ExCo member Ahongalu Fusimalohi in the transcript of his 2011 Court of Arbitration for Sport case against FIFA:

"351 Ahongalu Fusimalohi: It has to be strictly confidential.
352 Reporter: I just got the impression that to a certain extent the whole organization works like
353 Ahongalu Fusimalohi: Yes. It just, I mean, the eleventh commandment of the CIA, just don’t
get caught, don’t get caught, that’s it."

Not surprisingly, the CAS found, amongst other findings:

"130. On the basis of the evidence before it, the Panel is of the view that the Appellant
realized that he was offered some significant money in exchange for an improper
and shady lobbying activity. In spite of this awareness, the Appellant set out the
conditions under which he would assist Franklin Jones. The attitude of the
Appellant throughout the whole Auckland Meeting clearly establishes that his
collaboration with the alleged lobbyists was linked to the personal profit he could
131. In short, the Panel is comfortably satisfied that a gift or other advantage was
offered to the Appellant and that, accordingly, the first requirement of article 11
para. 1 FCE is met.
b) Incitement to breach duty or behave dishonestly for the benefit of a third

I'll write more on this case soon in another blog post about the 2022 World Cup hosting bidding process.

So there we have it. Years and years of unbridled corruption and unethical behaviour, known by FIFA and Sepp Blatter, Illegal payments he knew about but did not divulge, and numerous ExCo members banned for illegal and unethical behaviour, and based on the comments of Fusimalohi above, these are the ones who were stupid enough to get caught.

And this man, Sepp Blatter, wants us to believe that he is the man to steer the FIFA ship through the stormy waters.

And in case you are tempted to think that Urs Linsi was speaking just for himself - he was, after all, fired from his job in 2007, shortly after Vice-President Julio Grondona had negotiated an expensive new contract for him - take note also that Linsi himself said in his interview: "Communications is now directly linked to the President, because FIFA should speak with one voice." It is hard to believe that Blatter would let this interview make it all the way to the FIFA website if it were not an accurate reflection of the organisation's views.

Blatter has been FIFA President for sixteen years, knowing full that the organisation was corrupt before he took on the role and has been corrupt ever since. He even manoeuvred to prevent his only opponent in the last election, Mohammed bin Hammam, from standing, by getting him banned.Yet the man still has the balls to tout his record on reform and has hinted that he might stand for election again.

And he might succeed too, because although he cannot be attired with the epithet 'Teflon', plenty of mud having stuck to him, he has survived due to the lack of courage of the people who can vote him out, namely the National Associations who are too scared to nominate another candidate. They know that should their nominee lose to Blatter,  the nominating association would be sure to feel Blatter's wrath in terms of reduced funding for GOAL Projects, cash grants, hosting opportunities, promotions, and the like.