Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
FIFA Bidding Scandal: Why did Brit newspaper involve the USA?
by Paul Gardner, October 18th, 2010 12:20AM
Subscribe to SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner

TAGS:  world cup 2022


By Paul Gardner

Absolutely asking for it. That would be a concise comment on FIFA’s bidding process for the rights to stage the 2018 and 2022 World Cups -- now engulfed in allegations of corruption.

This is a process similar to that used by the International Olympic Committee to decide which city stages the Olympic Games. The IOC has had its problems, as we all know.

And we also all know that FIFA had problems back in 2000 with the voting for the rights to stage the 2006 World Cup.

How would anyone expect the process to be otherwise? When a vitally important vote, with millions or billions of dollars at stake, is given to a small number of people -- people who are in no sense experts at what they’re voting on -- what is to be expected other than, at least, influence peddling, and at worst, outright corruption?

In the case of the World Cup, the small number of people are the guys (yes, they’re all males) who make up FIFA’s Executive Committee. In 2000 one of them -- New Zealand’s Charlie Dempsey -- decided to abstain in the crucial vote and precipitately fled back from Zurich to Auckland. Why? He cited “unsustainable pressure,” but never got around to identifying the source. His vote was wanted -- desperately needed -- by both Germany and South Africa. If Germany got it, it was the winner. If South Africa got it, the vote tally was tied and the assumption was that South Africa would then win by getting president Sepp Blatter’s casting vote. By abstaining, Dempsey ensured that Germany was the winner -- by one vote.

The whole murky affair had clarity in only one aspect -- it was a shining example of how to create a problem -- the bidding system itself. For a start, it is, for the countries involved, massively expensive (for that 2000 decision, England had spent $15 million -- it got 2 votes and was quickly out of the running).

Given what is at stake, no one should be surprised that there just might be attempts at bribery. But not necessarily openattempts. Maybe a deal could be arranged whereby one of the smaller, less wealthy, nations, or even a Confederation, could get a training complex built by one of the rich bidding nations? Would that be bribery?

It was evidently with that sort of knowledge in mind, that the London newspaper The Sunday Times decided to set up a sting: To offer money to a member, or members, of the FIFA ExCo in return for their votes. The Exco consists of 23 members, plus Sepp Blatter in his capacity as FIFA President.

It is difficult to believe that the ST would have wasted its efforts and its money on such an operation unless it believed it would succeed. That confidence would rest on two things.

Firstly, that there were ExCo members who would respond to offers of money. The ST can no doubt explain why the members it selected were Amos Adamu of Nigeria and the Oceania Football Confederation president Reynald Temarii of Tahiti.

Secondly -- and this is the topic that interests me -- the journalists’ cover story (by which I mean, their lies) had to be convincing. Who would they be pretending to represent? As candidates for this dubious honor, there were the bidding countries -- including England, Russia, Australia, Japan, Qatar, South Korea and the USA. The ST chose the USA -- indirectly.

The journalists posed as lobbyists for a “consortium of American companies” who wanted the World Cup to be staged in the USA. They were not posing as direct representatives of the United States Soccer Federation. USSF president Sunil Gulati was quick to point out that “The Sunday Times report makes it clear, but it bears emphasis and repeating, that the USA Bid Committee had zero involvement with any aspect of the reporting that resulted in this story.”

So, in theory, the USSF is not sullied by the story. But the terse and tart nature of Gulati’s statement surely hints at an awareness that the linking of the USA’s bid to a story involving  bribery is bound to be damaging.

This is something that the ST must have been well aware of. After all, the ST’s journalists were claiming to be seeking votes for the USA’s bid. Why not for Qatar? Or for Australia or Japan?

Or, for that matter, for England? What made the idea of American involvement so attractive to the ST? This might be a tricky one for the ST to answer, for at the time of the sting England and the USA were in direct competition (that ceased to be the case only last week, when the USA withdrew its bid for the 2018 tournament).

The ST report has created what Blatter describes as “a very unpleasant situation ... The information in the article has created a very negative impact on FIFA and on the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups.” This should not come as a surprise. The “bidding process” is a festering sore, always likely to erupt into unpleasantness. It is an impure process that involves the waste of millions of dollars and brashly invites corruption. It also encourages precisely the sort of sting operation played out by the ST.

The English tabloid press has a history of these stings -- in 2006 Sven Goran Eriksson was victimized by the News of the Worldwhen he made a whole series of “unguarded” remarks to someone he believed was a rich Arab interested in investing in soccer. The “fake sheikh” was a reporter.

But the ST is not a tabloid. It has an honorable history, not so much in stings, as in investigative journalism. Under which heading does this operation belong? Either way, there is no escaping the fact that this was a form of entrapment. I don’t know anyone who can feel comfortable with that. And, for the moment, Adamu and Temarii seem to be guilty of nothing more than asking for lots of money ... to help their soccer programs.

The USA bid has taken a knock from the ST’s sting. A suspicion has been sewn. In organizing the sting, the ST could plausibly have chosen England or any other bidding nation as the country whose bid their investigators were ostensibly trying to facilitate. It preferred to cast a cloud over the USA’s bid. Why?

  1. Brent Crossland
    commented on: October 18, 2010 at 7:46 a.m.
    Why the USA? Gee, I don't know, Paul. Think Hicks, Gillette, the Glazers. American owner filing lawsuits in Texas to block a business deal in England. I suspect that our image on the world soccer scene is less than pristine.
  1. Brian Kraft
    commented on: October 18, 2010 at 8:50 a.m.
    ST figured all the other countries had ALREADY bribed the committee sufficiently, then they had the fake, pro-US bribers involved in some penny-ante stuff -- $3M, $800,000. I'm taking ST's choice of nation as a point of pride.
  1. Josh Davis
    commented on: October 18, 2010 at 10:20 a.m.
    Oh, Paul Gardiner! Your anti British sentiments know no bounds, do they? At every opportunity, mostly out of pure bias and/or malice, you malign the British, or the Brits, as you desrespectfully call them. Give it a rest for a change! Stings happen everywhere, including here in the US. Whether one likes those clandestine type operations or not, they are often the only way to weed out the criminals/liars/cheats who stand to benefit from events such as the World Cup. The fact that this was handled by the Sunday Times, rather than the Sun or the Star or the Mirror is cause for recognizing it rather than demonizing it. Would you have taken the same stance against the French if it had been Le Monde? You are an unashamed bigot, aren't you?
  1. Brian Something
    commented on: October 18, 2010 at 10:44 a.m.
    Josh: way to avoid the fair question. By the way, "Gardiner" is not anti-British. He's anti-British soccer. He doesn't care for the style in which they play the game. There's a big difference.
  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: October 18, 2010 at 11:22 a.m.
    this is a smart journalism. The US or any other country, it doesn't matter. And it is not going to affect the US bid any bit.
  1. Carl Walther
    commented on: October 18, 2010 at 11:53 a.m.
    A year ago when I posted that FIFA was corrupt, no one believed me. By the way Josh, I'm really against thug soccer. I guess that makes me anti British doesn't it?
  1. John Foust
    commented on: October 18, 2010 at 1:15 p.m.
    Perhaps a proportional response would be to tie the English bid for 2018 against this "sting," which I haven't read anyone suggest yet ... it all seems to be a reflection on the British paper posing as reps for U.S. interests. Wouldn't disqualifying the U.K. in 2018 therefore be a fitting response?

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now



Recent SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner
Soccer's new-look rulebook (Part 2): Making room for the Spirit the Game    
Alongside the changes in the organization and wording that David Elleray and his team have brought ...
Soccer's new-look rulebook (Part 1): Much improved but still a way to go    
No doubt it was asking too much of ex-referee David Elleray and his colleagues to turn ...
Two badly botched PK calls -- but the MLS remedy is misguided    
Well, not that brilliant a weekend for MLS refs. Specifically, a couple of dead-cert penalty kicks ...
Soccer, from the Heart    
A small book, the classic "slim volume" if you like ... but Brian Glanville's "The Man ...
How long for Nigel de Jong?    
So the talk is now focused on what sort of punishment the MLS Disciplinary Committee will ...
Fernando and Joe Hart share the blame for Man City fiasco    
The recent tragic, disastrous and possibly hilarious screw up by Man City that allowed Zlatan Ibrahimovic ...
One Nation, One Team -- a tainted slogan for U.S. Soccer    
I, like you, have to live with the daily insults to our intelligence provided by the ...
Klinsmann's cronyism reaps its reward: A calamitous Olympic flop    
Jurgen Klinsmann decided to give the U.S. Olympic team job to Andreas Herzog. Make that his ...
Maybe we're asking ARs to do the impossible    
We are still waiting for a look at the new -- rewritten, and greatly condensed -- ...
R.I.P. #14    
Johan Cruyff, dead at the far too early age of 68, will surely not be forgotten. ...
>> SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner Archives