‘Game of corruptions’ – An issue that the International Sports Law MUST conquer

Corruption has been prevalent in the process of hosting a mega-event like the FIFA World Cup, Olympics and many more international sports. Bidding is a part of the process that is vulnerable to illicit behaviour; however, not much has been done to prevent such behaviour of  people involved in such activities. These events generate billions of dollars of revenue and also bring a variety of benefits such as tourism, construction etc., that poses a real threat to the values of people involved.

The country that seeks to receive the hosting rights influences the selection committee with a bribe in exchange for a vote. This bribe is often structured as a donation to the sports program, which  in reality is used by members of the selection committee for personal gains.  One of the most talked and discussed scandals  was of  year 2010, when FIFA decided to grant hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively.  There have been several sting operations to reveal the dishonest intention of the members of the selection committee of accepting the bribe. As per the news reports and several articles, the Qatari government gave gifts to members of the committee; however, there were no explicit shreds of evidence of quid pro quo.[1]  The 2002 Summer Olympics bidding process also involved a lot of exchange of favours and gifts, which ultimately lead to the resignation of the International Olympics Committee.

A notion was built that countries with deep pockets will get favourable treatment from FIFA or the IOC.  There have been many instances of past bribery that were made public in 2015 related to World Cup 1998, wherein one of the FIFA executives was alleged to have taken a bribe from the organising committee of Morocco, which was expecting to secure hosting rights. These revelations were made by one Chuck Blazer, who facilitated a bribe in the 1998 World Cup, and later became an informant for the FBI.[2]

Similarly, with regard to the 2006 World Cup, an investigation was undertaken by a magazine which revealed that Robert Louis, the former CEO of Adidas, may have given funds to the organising committee of Germany to facilitate the bribe. [3] The fresh allegations over the 2022 World cup bid revealed the ever-increasing corrupt practices followed in granting hosting rights. It has been described as one of the greatest sporting events ever sold.  One name that has time and again appeared in corrupt practices is Sepp Blatter, who had presided over the bidding process and was eventually ejected from office by the ethics committee of FIFA in 2015. 

Qatar’s top official, Mohamed Hammam, was held responsible for making payments to other football officials for securing the bid.[4] Michale J. Garcia and Cornel Borbely, the then Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Investigatory Chamber of FIFA, submitted a “Report on the Inquiry into the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup Bidding Process,” also known as Garcia Report in 2014 to the FIFA officials, which they refused to publish because it revealed serious corruption issues in the bidding process.[5]

It all started in December 2008 when FIFA officials announced to choose venues for 2018 and 2022 simultaneously. This splitting of the field gave rise to the illegal swapping of votes.  Countries started supporting other countries in exchange for a vote. Some evidences were provided by the Journalists at the Sunday Times (2010). They conducted a sting operation which revealed that few members of the committee agreed to take bribes in favour of the vote, who were later on stripped of their voting rights.  As per FIFA rules, the Executive members are prohibited from receiving gifts and other benefits except for anything less than the average value of local customs. However, some reports reveal that Qatar provided gifts to the FIFA officials that eventually lead to the country securing hosting rights of the 2022 World Cup.[6]  Corruption does not stop once the hosting rights are secured; it continues in the form of procuring construction contracts[7], poor quality infrastructure etc. For instance, a new pedestrian bridge broke down before the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth games in New Delhi 2010; also a bicycle track collapsed, killing two persons during the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, displaying gross carelessness in construction works.[8]

therein addition to the above, there also have been gross human rights abuses in the preparation of the 2018 World Cup. FIFA also admitted that it had full knowledge of the pathetic working conditions leading up to the world cup. News reports revealed the death of seventeen persons in the construction of Russian stadiums.[9]  An exhaustive report was published by an International organisation known as  Human Rights Watch which listed serious human rights issues including labour abuse, worsening Human Rights situations in Russia, inappropriate FIFA human rights policy etc.[10]  Similar allegations were made by Amnesty international against the Qatari contractors, accusing the country of promoting human rights abuses including forced labour and lack of payment of wages in the preparation for the 2022 World Cup. One of the reasons for such violations as reported by OECD is that the contractors who secured the projects by offering bribes would try to recoup that amount by not paying wages to the labours and by using substandard materials for the construction of buildings. It is thereby suggested that while granting hosting rights,human rights must be included as a criterion in the bidding process.

Lack of transparency, checks and balances, lack of proper mechanism to deal with corruption are some of the core reasons for bad governance.  IOC needs to take a comprehensive approach and work in close association with other stakeholders in an attempt to tackle the conflict of interests.  Although the Court for Arbitration of Sport (CAS) is in place, it does not have the power to deal with every kind of issue related to sports. A central independent regulatory authority should be established to resolve disputes related to corruption in sports which ought to have its own investigative body to collect evidences. The IOC needs to criminalise certain acts of corruption so as to deter the players in the market who are looking for an opportunity to take advantage of the loopholes in law.

[1] Victor Matheson & Daniel Schwab & Patrick Koval, 2017. “Corruption in the Bidding, Construction, and Organization of Mega-Events: An Analysis of the Olympics and World Cup,” Working Papers 1706, College of the Holy Cross, Department of Economics.

[2]  Libby Nelson, A disgraced top FIFA official admitted to accepting bribes in the World Cup bid process. (Jun 3, 2015, 4:38pm EDT), https://www.vox.com/2015/6/3/8725405/chuck-blazer-fifa-bribes (Accessed on August 18, 2018).

[3] Tom Peck, Fifa corruption: Germany accused of ‘buying 2006 World Cup with former Adidas CEO’s money’(Oct 16, 2015, 15:23), https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/international/fifa-corruption-germany-accused-of-buying-2006-world-cup-with-former-adidas-ceo-s-money-a6696936.html (Accessed  August 18, 2018).

[4] Qatar has no right to host the 2022 World Cup (July 29, 2018, 12:01am, The Sunday Times) https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/qatar-has-no-right-to-host-the-2022-world-cup-q3smgt6sm (Accessed  August 18, 2018).

[5] J. Garcia, M. and Borbély, C. (2017). Report on the Inquiry into the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup Bidding Process. [online] Available at: https://img.fifa.com/image/upload/wnr43dgn3yysafypuq8r.pdf (Accessed Aug. 20 2018).

[6]Qatari citizen Bin Himmam played an important role in securing the hosting rights. It is alleged that he made several improper payments of around $10,000 to $50,000 to various officials associated CAF which is a branch of FIFA. Also, as per the Gracia Report, he paid $1.2 million to FIFA Vice President and Executive Committee member Jack Warner. See Jamie Merrill  Ben Rumsby, Calls for Fifa to see evidence of Qatar ‘sabotage’ over 2022 World Cup bid, (July 29, 2018 • 10:01PM), https://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2018/07/29/calls-fifa-see-evidence-qatar-sabotage-2022-world-cup-bid/

[7] For example, in 2014, a Russian non-profit organization, published a report wherein personal relationships between the recipient of  Sochi Olympics construction contract and Prime Minister Putin were revealed.

[8] Mega-Sporting Events Platform for Human Rights, “Corruption and Human Rights in the Sports Context” (Sporting Chance White Paper 1.3, Version 1, January 2017).

[9]  The Human rights watch report, “RED CARD”, documented human rights violations such as death at the construction sites, unpaid wages, unsafe working conditions and so on. Local police also threatened and detained a human rights watch researcher. See Minky Worden, Time for FIFA to Act on Human Rights, (November 22, 2017 12:00AM EST), https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/11/22/time-fifa-act-human-rights. (Accessed Aug. 20, 2018).

[10] Also see Russia: FIFA World Cup 2018 – Human Rights Guide for Reporters,” (https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/news_attachments/reporters_guide_world_cup0518_pdfweb_0.pdf) (Accessed Aug. 21, 2018).

About Charu Srivastava 9 Articles
Good day everyone!!! I am a faculty at School of Law, UPES [Dehradun] possess close to 6 years of academic experience, also a PH.D. Scholar at GNLU, Gandhinagar. I hold a Master degree in Business Laws from National Law School of India University, Bangalore. Passionate about Intellectual Property Rights particularly Law of Copyrights, Trademark, Geographical Indication and Traditional Knowledge. Aspires to contribute thoughtful posts on IP ranging from its creation to enforcement to cater to the vast category of readers involving artists, lawyers, academia or any layperson having no knowledge of IP. On a lighter note, Alas, I am not Adventurous or a traveller but have an interest in singing, playing guitar and cooking little bit.

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