The media is awash with the allegations of bribery and corruption by officials of FIFA.1 As the governing body to the world’s largest sporting community, FIFA wields immense power. The kudos of holding the World Cup is such that governments are prepared to change the laws in their countries and suffer financial hardship to hold it. Even use their top law enforcement agents to investigate winning bids. Which is what America is doing after losing to Qatar. This is very sad because it should have been the loss of human lives that sparked the outrage; not a slight by an organisation historically known to use questionable methods.
No modern international sporting event has such a high death toll during construction as that in Qatar. To date 1,200 migrant workers have died as Qatar prepare for the 2022 World Cup. Brazil had eight deaths and South Africa had two when they hosted the games. London in preparation for the 2012 Olympics had one death the same as Vancouver who hosted the 2010 winter Olympics. Conservative estimates suggest that more than 4,000 construction workers may lose their lives before a whistle is blown in 2022.
FIFA undoubtedly has the power to stop this by making health and safety stipulations. They compelled Brazil to change their 2003 legislation that ban the sale of alcohol in stadiums. It was introduced because of the death and violence associated with the sale of alcohol. The law was at variance with Budweiser who was one of FIFA’s biggest sponsors. FIFA insisted on sale of beer in the stadiums, irrespective of Brazil’s public health laws. FIFA made it clear that the matter was “non-negotiable”. The Brazilian government capitulated approving the “Budweiser Bill”.
FIFA have even branded justice. South Africa agreed to create the World Cup Courts when they hosted the 2010 games. The 56 courts sat late into the night dispensing quick ‘justice’. Two Zimbabweans who were charged with robbing foreign journalists on a Wednesday, were arrested on the Thursday, and began a 15 year jail sentence on the Friday. Disturbingly, otherwise civil wrongs2 became criminal offences and petty crimes such as the theft of a few bottles of alcohol were resolved by taking a ‘sledgehammer to a nut.’
FIFA is a charity that is tax exempt at all levels. The boardroom along with their cash reserve of $1.4 billion indicates they are financially sound. Income is derived from sponsorship of the World Cup. The host country meets construction and associated costs. For Brazil that was $11 billion. FIFA’s status is such that the Government could not collect $250,000,000 that would have been due in taxes.
Qatar should never have been allowed to host the 2022 games. Not because it is too hot with temperatures of 50c (122 degrees fahrenheit) but because it is a modern slave state. The rich Gulf state is known to have an appalling record on Human Rights. Everyday at least two migrant workers die. They cannot leave the country without an exit visa nor their employer’s permission. Their employers also hold their passports.
The allegations against FIFA for money laundering, racketeering, bribery and fraud do not include its worse transgressions; those against humanity. This should be the primary goal that FIFA addresses.
With the resignation of Sepp Blatter, the new President must ensure that the award of the 2022 games to Qatar is reviewed. Alternative arrangements should be made whether or not corruption is found. For the wrongs being perpetrated on their migrant labour force are horrific and have no place in a game where the grassroots lie in a sense of community.