The Qatar 2022 FIFA tournament will be upon us before we soon realise, but there is a general consensus that corruption played an important role in holding the event there. Qatar beat the United States in hosting the football. With continuous allegations by former disgraced FIFA President Sepp Blatter regarding ex-President of France, Nicholas Sarkozy and the FIFA bidding process, football seems rarely out of the spotlight regarding corruption.
The FIFA ethics committee is demanding evidence to substantiate the latest allegations. Sarkozy has been under the spotlight as to whether he received funds around the time of the bidding process for Qatar’s successful 2022 World Cup Football bid. Several deals between French-Qatari companies engaging in multi-billion deals are still subject to an ongoing criminal investigation by the French prosecutor.
This now adds to the weight of a number of international criminal investigations into the Qatar bidding process with serious allegations being made that Qatar bribed their way into hosting the tournament and arranged the spread of fake news relating to Australia’s and the US’s bids.
It clearly seems that World Cup sporting events are becoming the World Cup of Fraud.
Important issues need to be raised: How can corruption be stamped out? Is corruption undermining the integrity of sport, which is an integral part of national identity; feeds economic growth; breaks down barriers between individuals and nations; and is a major source of mental and physical well-being?
It is not just a French connection, corruption at the highest level is endemic across all sports, at all levels, including the underlying players and athletes. This resulted in the IAAF International Association of Athletics Federations’ recommending upholding a ban on Russian athletes competing in the World Athletics Championships in 2019. The Russians have apologised for the doping scandals that has beset them, which have been deemed in part to be state sponsored. This doping practice is a clear marker and legacy of the athletic policy communism purveyed during the cold war.
It is a hard deal to keep politics out of sport and will be even more challenging to stave off corruption. Politics needs to be harnessed to solve the growing problem through better regulation and transparency of politicians. With transfer fees for football being in the order of 1/5th of a billion US dollars for the likes of Neymar who played in the 2018 World Cup, the need to safeguard against corruption is becoming even more paramount given massive investments in football players.
With the growth in online gaming in the sports industry like CFDs Credit for Difference Contracts and Fixed Odds Gambling, corruption has massive implications for the integrity of sport on the field let alone which country will host the next major games in terms of economic development.
What is needed to clean up corruption in sport is greater monitoring by independent bodies, supporting government and sporting body policy. In this regard, in 2016, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the management consultants, conducted an inaugural survey of major governing bodies of sports around the globe and found that the major concern was match fixing. In a similar vein, Transparency International has embarked on an ongoing major project which is going to look thoroughly at corruption in sport and building comprehensive databases. Transparency International prepares an international review of corruption around the globe and is one of the most authoritative independent bodies on the subject.
The advent of ‘big data’ and accompanying high level powerful analytics, should assist the process of weeding out corruption in a number of dimensions across the entire sports supply chain.
Whilst a systematic approach has been adopted in relation to exposing corruption through random doping tests, the enforcement needs to be addressed more strongly. It is only in recent times that policy setters have become more athletic in their approach to defeating corruption in sport by dedicating much energy to this cause. Policy setters realised that the economic growth of sports can be impeded by corruption in a similar way in which corruption destroys macro-economies and society. Also, capital market integrity is an important variable in attracting equity funds in the stock market. Sports that fail to deliver coherent and effective anti-corruption will wither. Survival of the fittest at its best.
Thus, in conquering corruption, more resources need to be directed to the cause of eradicating it. In the past, it has been argued that this was severely lacking. In addition, the presence of corruption has spurned new industries like the use of video to help referees such as VAR, Video Assistant Referees. Football legends like Arsene Wenger is a keen support of this technology, commenting that it should have been introduced 15 years ago.
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