POSTED: June 9th 2014

JOHN GOODBODY: Olympic Movement watching the turmoil in FIFA

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) The Olympic Movement has been here before but perhaps not on the massive scale of alleged corruption that football is now facing over allocating the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. In December 1998, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was confronted by a crisis over the favours-for-votes scandal, which gave the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake City.

As a result 10 IOC members were either expelled or resigned, while 10 others were reprimanded or sanctioned. The effect nearly brought down the IOC. But FIFA never learnt from the experience and this week as the final preparations are under way for the World Cup in Brazil, an even more serious controversy has erupted with the revelations published in The Sunday Times in London that crucial votes were bought before the vote in 2010 to take the 2022 tournament to Qatar, a tiny country with no real history in the game.

The claims, supported by a mass of documentary evidence, is that the Qatari, Mohamed bin Hammam, the former FIFA vice-president, who has been banned for life from football in an earlier corruption scandal, paid about £3 million in bribes to get his country the tournament. Just how damaging these claims are can be shown by the fact that five leading sponsors of the World Cup  have voiced their concern. Adidas said: ”The negative tenor of the public debate around FIFA at the moment is is neither good for football nor for FIFA and its partners” while Visa expected FIFA to “take appropriate action to respond to the report and its recommendations.”

This report is the one that had already been set up by Fifa before the new slew of allegations was published with the investigation being carried out by Michael Garcia, a New York lawyer. This week in Sao Paulo, the FIFA Congress will be given an update by Garcia although the full report is not expected until after the tournament finishes.

The IOC is watching the whole issue with concerned fascination. Several of those people, alleged to have received money, have strong links with the Olympic Movement, none more so than Issa Hayatou, the Cameroonian who is both a FIFA vice-president and an IOC member. He protests his innocence. The IOC is to wait until the results of Garcia’s final report, which hopefully will include an examination of all the evidence gathered by The Sunday Times, before its Ethics Commission (set up in the aftermath of the Salt Lake City scandal) decides whether to take any action.

Sepp Blatter, the FIFA President, has admitted that giving the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was a “mistake”, not least because if the competition is to be held in the European summer, the traditional time for the World Cup, the temperatures can be over 40 degrees. However, Qatar insists that it “won the bid on its merits” and says Mohamed Bin Hammam had nothing officially to do with the bid. This claim is patently specious since in November 2010, the chairman of Qatar bid described him as “definitely our biggest asset.”

It is clear that Qatar will not give up the World Cup without a fight. After all it has already started work on building the venues and it would be a huge loss in prestige to lose the tournament. One can foresee a massively expensive court case looming. FIFA will try to avoid this but if it sticks with Qatar, it will face opprobrium from much of the world. Given how stupidly and often corruptly, its leading officials have played, the governing body of the world’s most popular sport has only got itself to blame.

** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2012 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 12th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.

Keywords · John Goodbody · FIFA · IOC

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