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.