Was the United States Robbed of Hosting the 2022 Qatar Games?
The Qatar 2022 FIFA tournament will be upon us before soon, 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 event. With continuous allegations by former disgraced FIFA President Sepp Blatter regarding Nicolas Sarkozy, the ex-president of France, and the FIFA bidding process, football is 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 French prosecutors.
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 Australian and American bids. It clearly seems that the 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 the sport which is an integral part of national identity, feeds economic growth, breaks down barriers between individuals and nations and contributes to mental and physical well-being.
It is not just a French connection, corruption at the highest level is endemic in all sports, at all levels, including the players. This resulted in the IAAF International Association of Athletics Federations’ recommending upholding a ban on Russian athletes competing in World Athletics Championships in 2019. The Russians have apologized for the doping scandals which is a step in the right direction, which have been deemed in part to be state-sponsored. This doping practice is a clear marker and legacy under Communism during the Cold War.
It is hard to keep politics out of sports 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 the massive investments in football players.
With the growth of online gaming in the sports industry like CFDs Credit for Difference Contracts and Fixed Odds Gambling, corruption has massive implications for the integrity of the 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 sports 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 prepared 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 testing, enforcement needs to be addressed more strongly. It is only in recent times that those who determine policy have become more attuned to athletics in their approach in order to defeat corruption by dedicating energy to this cause. They realized 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 policies 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 spawned new industries like the use of videos to help referees such as VAR (Video Assistant Referees). Football legend Arsene Wenger is a keen supporter of this technology, commenting that it should have been introduced 15 years ago.
In addition, similar technology that upholds the integrity of capital markets should be implemented in betting markets to pick-up irregular betting practices and potential corruption. This technology, like NASDAQ SMARTS [an Australian invention], has been tried and tested in capital markets and has proven to be a very effective tool for identifying ‘insider’ trades and acts as a major deterrent for corruption. This technology could be adopted by the sports betting industry.
Corruption is endemic in all major international sports from drug taking to match-fixing. Only recently have advances in technology and the willingness of sporting governing bodies been able to effectively monitor and allocate resources to mitigate corruption. It is vitally important to get a grip on corruption as its harmful effects are already taking their toll on all sports stakeholders.
Hosting the 2022 World Cup would have meant so much to the United States or Australia. It looks like a few red cards are going to be eventually dealt to corrupt officials further down the track. Goal!