FIFA Gets Tangled In Its Own Web Of Corruption on
Wednesday April 26, 2017
   // FIFA Gets Tangled In Its Own Web Of Corruption
05
Jun

Sepp Blatter (right) and the Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa al Thami (left) in Zurich, 2010 - Reuters/Christian Hartman

Sepp Blatter (right) and the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al Thami (left), 2010 – Reuters/Christian Hartman

It was and will be the least surprising headline ‘scoop’ of the year, Qatar bribed officials to win their bid for the 2022 World Cup. The only surprising part of the tale being that such a vast paper trail exists of the money. I always thought bribes are supposed to be discreet. Isn’t this how the right to host sports events are won? When an undemocratic country are bidding, the potential for interference in the process is both too tempting and too easy for it not to degenerate into grubby handshakes and proverbial brown paper envelopes.

But it would be completely disingenuous to try and pretend that there isn’t something radically different at play in this story, the simple fact is, for once, it’s not just us looking aghast at the FIFA omnishambles, this time the world’s most corrupt sporting organisation (quite an achievement, we can all agree) is at war with itself. It mightn’t seem so at first glance, but we must first try and understand how the information given to the Sunday Times came into the public domain.

For once it was not investigate journalists catching FIFA or bid bigwigs out by using hidden cameras while they cleverly trap the official into incriminating themselves. This time a whistle-blower did the business. It would be nice to think football had its own Edward Snowden or Maurice McCabe, a crusader for justice near the top echelons of the game. What’s more likely is one of the top lieutenants against Qatar hosting the event (and there are many) let this information trickle down to a source who they knew would pass it on.

It is generally forgotten- admittedly because of his overarching despicable nature- that Sepp Blatter didn’t vote for the 2022 winning bid, and while trying to deny claims of corruption it’s clear from his many utterances that the Swiss isn’t too fond of the idea of a Qatari World Cup, certainly not one played in the summer anyway. It’s not too much of a stretch to believe the man who has sat four terms as president of FIFA wasn’t too unhappy with the weekend’s development, he may see it as a way to finally extricate his fiefdom from this sorry mess.

But is there a route to the exit door? It’s there in theory, the bid can be re-run and the decision reversed. The idea though that whatever result any review would have won’t end up in litigation is fanciful and it might not just be Qatar that bring in the lawyers, any of the African associations implicated in the bribery allegations may also want to clear their names.

For the first time a clear division within FIFA ranks is visible, a reversal of the decision and anyone who advocated for Qatar including Michel Platini is made to look very foolish. Then there are those who can’t see beyond the practical and moral challenges of hosting a World Cup in the Gulf state, not even bringing into the equation the task of moving the tournament to a winter schedule.

A World Cup in Brazil was a dream that has turned into a nightmare, in four years time the competition goes to Russia, which would have been a controversial decision in itself had the Qatar circus not overshadowed it completely. If it does head to the middle east in 2022 it will be the final nail in the coffin for the iconic competition, could anyone, even sponsors, truly feel comfortable buying into a tournament openly bought and built on slave labour.

The choice seems obvious but for FIFA it is an unpalatable dilemma, a reversal first of all humiliates them, acknowledging their own corruption and incompetence. It leaves them with years of legal wrangling and finally, a threat that those who still support the Qatari bid will attempt a break away from the organisation. All football supporters might foam at the mouth at the prospect of FIFA finally gorging on itself after feasting on everything else in the game but with the stakes so high, it makes coming back from the brink over the 2022 bid less likely.

World Cup. Two words that instantly give you that sense of nostalgia of great days past, that sense of wonder of what stories we will have been treated to by the 13th July this year. Notice too, it’s the World Cup, there’s no explanation as to what sport is on offer here, the versions in different codes are fun but nothing can match this. The original and still the best.

Only if you were to say the FIFA World Cup that brings up other images altogether. Just that one little word can wholly change your perspective. That brings up thoughts of favelas being ‘socially cleansed’, of construction workers being put into early graves in the name of football, of mountains of money being frittered away on stadia while millions struggle in poverty.

The two faces of the World Cup. It’s always been this way, far-right regimes in Italy and Argentina used the hosting of the event to solidify their stranglehold on power, while the event has given unbridled joy to millions. Darkness and light. The problem being the light gets fainter every passing four years and the darkness stronger. The light would be permanently snuffed out if Qatar were to host the 2022 edition.

It might come down to a choice between killing the World Cup for good or FIFA’s survival as the game’s governing body, a choice no one of sound mind would place in the association’s hands.

Conor Hayes

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