World Cup selection process needs fixing

| Staff Columnist

International sporting organizations are not known for being the most transparent of organizations. The world’s two most well-known, the International Olympic Committee and FIFA, have long and storied histories, much of which has to do with the innate corruption of their location bidding processes.

The IOC and FIFA are both known for the opaque process by which they decide which cities and nations will have the “honor” of hosting their respective games. After commissioning many hours of consulting in order to determine who has the best logistic ability to host the games and having each potential host nation or city submit a detailed bid describing in detail how and where it plans to host the games, the members of each committee decide behind closed doors who will host the next Olympics or World Cup.

Recently, there has been a great deal of discontent regarding FIFA’s decision to allow the Gulf nation of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup. Qatar was competing with Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States to host the 2022 games. During the process, each of these five nations submitted a Bid Evaluation Report, which were available on the FIFA website. It is generally agreed upon that Qatar had the worst bid for the 2022 World Cup: it proposes 12 stadiums, nine of which haven’t even been built yet. Additionally, the other three would have to undergo serious renovations. For comparison, the U.S. bid suggested 18 potential stadiums, none of which would have to be seriously renovated other than minor changes to allow them to host soccer. Furthermore, the event is planned for the summer in the middle of the desert in the Arabian Peninsula, where temperatures average well higher than 105 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.

In order to address the concerns about the crowd and player conditions, Qatar planned to employ cooling technology that has not been created yet, let alone tested and constructed. Furthermore, there are questions about whether the kingdom, which has a total population of 1.9 million, has the infrastructure to support the massive influx of tourists that the World Cup will no doubt attract. Beyond that, Qatar did not even meet the projected standards for profitability that FIFA generally requires.

So why did FIFA grant Qatar the World Cup, and how does it plan to have the facilities ready in time for the World Cup? The answer to the first part is unknowable given FIFA’s closed-door decision-making process, but generally FIFA member votes are bought with almost explicit bribery. The second part has been in the news lately due to the worldwide revelation that Qatar is employing what amounts to slave labor in the construction of its facilities. Recently, a news story broke about the death of more than 40 Nepalese laborers in Qatar and how theirs and other workers’ passports had been confiscated and wages not been paid. To an outside observer who cannot even access the details of the decisions other than the presented information, it certainly appears that the FIFA committee almost certainly ignored the facts and recommendations about who should host the World Cup.

Serious changes need to be made to the FIFA bidding process to ensure that corruption and nepotism do not jeopardize human life or the quality of the World Cup.

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening at Washington University and beyond.