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FIFA, the regulatory body of the international football league (soccer for the U.S.fan), has been in the news of late due to a storm of alleged ethics violations that have rocked the football world to its core. In fact, these accusations are the latest chapter in a series of accusations of corruption in major organizational bodies that have emerged in the past decade: the International Olympic Committee weathered a similar scandal at the turn of the millennium. However, experts question whether this current scandal will produce any lasting changes in football regulation.
Football is unquestionably the international sport, and FIFA is arguably the sporting equivalent of the United Nations. Yet one-third of FIFA’s 24-member executive committee has been accused of corruption and unethical behavior. Last fall, London’s Sunday Times caught two executive committee members on tape soliciting bribes in exchange for their votes in the December executive board meeting that would decide the location of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Hosting the World Cup is both a public honor and an economic boon for the country chosen. Experts estimate that the next host city would profit between $400 million to $600 million based on today’s current dollar value. Experts also estimate that the World Cup would create between 5,000 and 8,000 temporary jobs in each host city. In total, the dollar effect would be akin to the profits gained from hosting 12 Super Bowls (source).
In December, the Committee awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups toRussiaandQatarrespectively. Qataris accused of having bribed at least two members of the Committee to secure their votes during the decision process. In February, the current president of FIFA admitted thatSpainandPortugal, who were jointly bidding for the 2018 Cup, had struck an illegal agreement withQatarto swap votes.
Earlier this month, during a British Parliamentary Enquiry, England 2018 World Cup bid chairman David Triesman gave testimony that has reverberated across the globe. He testified that four FIFA executive committee members had demanded bribes in return for their votes forEngland’s failed 2018 World Cup bid.
Most recently, German lawyer and prominent member of the FIFA Ethics Commission, Gubter Hirsch, decided to step down from his position. In a letter to the Ethics Commission President, Hirsch explained that “the events of the past few weeks have raised and strengthened the impression that responsible persons in FIFA have no real interest in playing an active role in resolving, punishing and avoiding violations against ethic regulations of FIFA.” (source)
As of now, six Ethics Commission members have been suspended due to unethical behavior, one for bribery. Others were sanctioned for breaching rules of loyalty and confidentiality and other less serious offenses. The investigation continues, but the overwhelming refrain from expert commentators is that the results of the investigation will be temporary and superficial. Ultimately, no one has a solution that seems likely to encourage ethical compliance from this organization that singlehandedly controls the most economically profitable sporting event in the world.