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Is Corruption Behind the Fifa Selection of Qatar to Host 2022 World Cup?

Several Countries Claim Unethical Behavior in Selection of Qatar

Football's world governing body Fifa is under growing pressure from a number of sponsors after its decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. Sony, Adidas, Coca-Cola, Visa and Hyundai/Kia have expressed concern over claims of wrongdoing in the bidding process. In total, five of Fifa's six main sponsors have issued statements relating to the Qatar bid. Oil company BP and the maker of Budweiser beer, who also sponsor the World Cup, have also registered their concerns. Only airline Emirates has so far declined to comment. No surprise there as Emirates has the most to gain from Qatar hosting the games.

Qatar was chosen to host the World Cup in December 2010, beating off competition from Australia, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. It seems unusual, to say the least, that the tiny country was selected twice in twelve years. The old fashioned ‘smell test’ leads me to believe there is “something rotten in the state of Denmark.”

Fifa's ethics committee is already investigating allegations of corruption surrounding Qatar's successful bid. In response to the clamor for a fresh investigation, Fifa president Sepp Blatter has called for time. He previously had posted a message on his Twitter account insisting the organization was taking the allegations seriously. That’s hard for me to believe as nothing has been done since this past June when the allegations were first made.

German sportswear company Adidas, which has a long-term sponsorship deal with Fifa that runs until 2030, said in a statement: "The negative tenor of the public debate around Fifa at the moment is neither good for football nor for Fifa and its partners." Coca-Cola added: "Anything that detracts from the mission and ideals of the Fifa World Cup is a concern to us."

Blatter has said “We are in constant contact with our commercial affiliates, including Adidas, Sony and Visa, and they have 100% confidence in the investigation currently being conducted by Fifa's independent ethics committee. Our sponsors have not requested anything that is not covered by the ongoing investigation by the ethics committee."

Last June the UK Sunday Times newspaper alleged that Qatar's former Fifa vice-president, Mohamed bin Hammam, paid £3m to football officials around the world to help win support for Qatar in the run-up to the World Cup vote in December 2010. Now Bin Hammam is facing claims he used his contacts in the Qatari royal family and government to arrange deals and favors to secure the tournament for his country.

According to the emails, some of which have been seen by the BBC, the 65-year-old Bin Hammam:

  • Visited Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin to discuss "bilateral relations" between Russia and Qatar a month before the votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
  • Brokered government level talks for Thailand's Fifa executive Worawi Makudi to push a deal on importing gas from Qatar to Thailand. Makudi told the paper he did not receive a concession for his part in any gas deal.
  • Invited Germany's former Fifa executive Franz Beckenbauer to Doha just five months after the vote with bosses from an oil and gas shipping firm which was employing him as a consultant. The firm involved says it was exploring possible Qatari investments in the shipping and maritime sector but that no deal ever came from the talks. When approached by the Sunday Times, former German international Beckenbauer declined to comment.
  • Fixed meetings between nine Fifa executive committee members, including Blatter, with members of the Qatari royal family.
  • Arranged a meeting between the Qatar bid team and Michael Platini, the boss at European football's headquarters in Nyon. Platini, who has openly admitted voting for Qatar, says Bin Hammam did not attend the meeting and insists he has nothing to hide.

Qatar's World Cup organizing committee reiterated it was confident the bid had been won fairly. Bin Hammam has so far declined to comment.

Emails leaked to the Sunday Times appear to demonstrate Bin Hammam, banned from football for life in 2012 for his part in another corruption scandal, was working to secure support for the Qatar bid. However, it is not clear that he or the bid broke any of the governing body's bidding rules.

I can’t imagine if in the U.S. we discovered that legislators of a state paid the NFL to host a Super Bowl. Yet that is the scope of the allegations against Fifa. What’s needed now is a re-vote that can occur through pressure brought to bear on Fifa by the sponsors of the 2022 World Cup. Vice-president Jim Boyce has already said he would support a re-vote if allegations of corruption are proven. Boyce should be proactive and order a re-vote so there isn’t any appearance that the original vote was tainted by any conflict of interest between Qatar and the Fifa organizing committee.

Blog posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on November 4, 2014. Professor Mintz teaches in the Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at: www.workplaceethicsadvice.com.