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Global athletics and corruption

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Global athletics and corruption

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is investigating bribery allegations in regards to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively. The International Olympic Committee also has been stained by similar corruption allegations in the past. Is corruption endemic to both international bodies? I leave this for others to answer.

As an economist, I would not be surprised if payoffs had been made in order for a city or country to “win” the right to stage a prestigious event such as the World Cup or the Olympics. There is simply too much money at stake, and very weak governance safeguards in place. Money drives corruption, whether it is in sports, politics, journalism or business.

I believe there may be a simple solution to reduce the potential for payoffs and to restore the integrity of both organizations. It is the same solution I have suggested in the past to deal with ineffective corporate governance – random selection and term limits.

My proposed solution would work as follows. First, there should be term limits, preferably four years given the selection cycle for both the World Cup and Olympics, for executives and appointed members of these two associations. No one should have or expect a position for longer, let alone for life, which seemed to have been the expectation of some.

Second, the winning bid should be selected randomly – by lottery. There are five continents, so the awarding of these events should be cycled among the five continents. Each continent should be awarded the event (Wold Cup, Olympics) every 20 years. When each continent’s time comes, cities/countries on that continent would throw their names into a hat, from which the winner would be selected.

But there could be some eligibility criteria established for the lottery. For example, each applicant could be required to put up a bond – $100 million or more. The losers would only receive part of their bonds back. The winner would have to put up even more money, perhaps upwards of $500 million.

Time lines and milestones should be established. If the winning city/country failed to meet any of the milestones, up to two years ahead of the date of the event, the event should be transferred to another city/country on that continent that had previously staged the event. This city/country would be able to use the bond put up by the former “winner” to help cover the costs of updating the facilities required for the event.

Other criteria could be established. I would like to see minimum standards for corruption, democracy, and human rights. Tyrannical regimes should not apply.

Sports should stand for more than just athletics, given the global importance of the World Cup and the Olympics.

The opinions expressed in this blog are personal and do not reflect the views of either Global Brief or the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs.


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1 Comment

  1. Alejandro García Magos July 26, 2011

    Great ideas, but who will push for change? According to The Economist, Swiss parliamentarians and commercial sponsors, but I do not believe it: FIFA can pack any day and leave to other country, and commercial sponsors do not care that much about the game. Change will come from $trong member football associations (Brazil, England, USA, Mexico, Germany), but only if they act together. Sadly, few small countries have interest in changing the status quo.

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