By Nick Harris
16 March 2010
Fifa has launched a preemptive strike against those who might seek to corrupt the bidding process to stage the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments with bribes by writing to remind all the bidding nations “that they have signed regulations to respect fair play in this contest”.
The World Cup is by far the biggest single-sport event in the global calendar, and winning the right to stage it potentially gives the chance for the hosts to make sizeable sums of money as well as earn massive kudos. The bidding process is therefore naturally susceptible to corruption, something Fifa now seems to acknowledge.
There is no suggestion of any evidence to date that bribes have been sought or paid in the 2018 and 2022 process. There are seven bids to stage 2018. In alphabetical order they come from: Australia, Belgium-Netherlands jointly, England, Japan, Russia, Portugal-Spain jointly, and the USA. Those nations plus Indonesia, South Korea and Qatar are also bidding for 2022.
Fifa has now taken the extraordinary step of making public the fact that its Ethics Committee has reminded the bidders as to their conduct. The committee, under its new chairman Claudio Sulser, met yesterday “and agreed to remind all bidders of their obligations with regard to this process.”
Sulser said: “As a former professional footballer, I am very honoured to chair this committee, and I am certain that we can do something positive if we work together as a team, with a transparent approach and with a clear application of the Code of Ethics in order to protect the integrity of football.”
A Fifa statement added: “The committee also agreed to send a letter to all of the member associations bidding for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups in order to remind them that they have signed regulations to respect fair play in this contest and that the Ethics Committee will remain vigilant to ensure that all regulations are adhered to.”
Fifa’s president, Sepp Blatter, acknowledged the riches now at stake in the game when he said: “Football has also reached a huge economic dimension. All of this brings not only a social responsibility, but a moral commitment too. This is why it is so important to have an independent Ethics Committee that can supervise and make sure that fair play and the Code of Ethics are respected.”
The hosts for 2018 and 2022 will be decided with a vote by Fifa’s 24-man Executive Committee (ExCo) in December. Political trading of votes in the widest sense is expected and is not in itself illegal. The bidding nations are all actively seeking votes from the ExCo members. But Fifa’s warning now of responsibilities is a shot across the bows reminding bidders not to overstep the mark.