Soccer Corruption Dribbling Down K-Street

THE ARREST OF SEVERAL prominent FIFA officials and its controversial President Sepp Blatter’s decision to resign from his office just days after securing re-election have sent shockwaves around the world in recent weeks. The arrests have started to shine a bright light on the systemic and rampant corruption in soccer’s governing body and highlighting the organization’s lack of transparency. As part of the investigation into abuses by FIFA Swiss prosecutors are set to investigate FIFA’s decision to award the hosting rights for both the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 tournament in Qatar.

In 2011 following an outcry due to FIFA’s decision to award to World Cup tournament to Qatar FIFA commissioned a report investigating Qatar’s bidding process for the tournament. The full report, which has never been published, cleared Qatar of any wrong doing. Yet, allegations of corruption and bribery still continue to surface. In response to the controversy the Wall Street Journal reports Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (the World Cup organizing committee) saying, “We conducted our bid with integrity and to the highest ethical standards,”  adding that it aims to leave behind “a positive legacy.”

From 2009, when the bidding process for the rights to host the World Cup began, to present Qatar has spent more than $8.8 million on U.S. based consultants. The Hill reports, “Although the money spent on public relations and advocacy services since 2009 includes a slew of issues surrounding U.S.-Qatari engagement, the World Cup 2022 Bid Committee paid Brown Lloyd James, now BLJ Worldwide, an estimated $982,339 from 2009 to 2011, according to filings with the Department of Justice.”

However, the bribery allegations may just be the tip of the iceberg in the scandal surrounding Qatar’s World Cup bid. Adding to the headache of U.S. based consultants Qatar also faces allegations of the mistreatment of migrant workers, many of whom are working to build the stadiums and facilities for the World Cup. A report in the British newspaper The Guardian from 2014 reports, “Nepalese migrants building the infrastructure to host the 2022 World Cup have died at a rate of one every two days in 2014 – despite Qatar’s promises to improve their working conditions.” However, some who oppose Qatar’s World Cup bid such as Sunjeev Bery, the Advocacy Director for Middle East North Africa at Amnesty International USA argue, “No amount of PR or lobbying can obscure the underlying realities of labor abuse and exploitation in Qatar.”

Since January four new firms (Mercury, LEVICK, and Portland Communications which sub-contracted with Gallagher Group) have signed on to work on behalf of Qatar with contracts totaling more than $1.9 million through June alone. Those firms as well as Squire Patton Boggs and BGR Group, both of which have for a longtime listed Qatar as a client, certainly have their work cut out for them in the wake of the developing FIFA scandal.




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