By L. Pereira
The world was taken aback when FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar in December 2010, with many fans expressing surprise — and more than a little skepticism — that a desert monarchy whose soccer team had never qualified for a World Cup had legitimately beaten out global sporting powerhouses such as the United States, Japan, and Australia.
However, even before the decision was made public, soccer fans had reason to doubt FIFA's bidding process. Just two months before FIFA was set to announce the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, the organization suspended two members of its 24-person executive committee — the body in charge of selecting the host nations — who had been accused of offering bribes.
Initial claims of corruption for FIFA turned out to be simply the tip of the iceberg. The influential Qatari soccer administrator and former member of the FIFA executive committee Mohammed bin Hammam was reportedly accused of paying millions of dollars in bribes to FIFA officials, according to a pile of hacked emails and other documents covered by the UK's Sunday Times in 2014.
Also, the US Department of Justice unveiled charges against nine FIFA executives in May 2015, charging them with racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering in relation to a complex plot to sell the tournament's television rights.
Regardless of whether Qatar is dishonest, FIFA's choice of the nation does appear as self-serving: FIFA has the opportunity to grow its market share in the Middle East by hosting the event there, and Qatar's wealth make alluring financial partners for FIFA's prospective ventures.
With all these prior claims of corruption and skepticism surrounding Qatar hosting the World Cup, FIFA has difficult challenges in maintaining its legitimacy. Even if we exclude its impact on sport, it still represents a multibillion-dollar sector with a net positive of US$1.2 billion that employs millions of people. If corruption is found, it will lead to several other issues, including investigations that interfere with the lives of innocent people and tarnish the reputation of the practically only football endorser company.