World Cup of fraud—FIFA corrupt to the core

What many suspected for years has now been conclusively proven: the world football governing body FIFA is run by an elite implicated in a web of bribery, fraud, money laundering and even gun-running. The competition to win World Cup rights and broadcasting deals has turned FIFA into a lucrative business for corrupt officials.

The resignation of FIFA President Sepp Blatter has signalled just how serious the latest corruption scandal is. Many are convinced that US investigators must have seriously incriminating evidence for him to step down. Corruption has dogged Blatter for many years but until now he has successfully deflected prosecution.

The US Department of Justice is trying to extradite seven FIFA officials who are accused of running a “World Cup of fraud”, by extorting bribes from countries making bids to host the event.

Blatter’s right-hand man Jerome Valcke is facing questions as to how much he knew about a $10 million payment to the disgraced former Vice-President Jack Warner.

Sinister allegations are now emerging that the 2006 World Cup decision was influenced by the delivery of rocket-propelled grenades to Saudi Arabia. German newspapers reported that Chancellor Gerhard Schroder supplied the arms to the reactionary kingdom in return for support in Germany’s World Cup bid, where it defeated South Africa 12-11 in controversial circumstances. The German government lifted arms restrictions days before the vote in order to make the delivery.

The latest allegations mean that the votes for six out of the last seven World Cups are now under scrutiny—1998, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022. US investigators and Swiss Prosecutors are now looking into the bidding race for 2018, which is set to be hosted by Russia.

Russia responded angrily to the widening of the corruption probe to include its own bid, with President Vladimir Putin lashing out at the US for attempting to “spread its jurisdiction to other states” and prevent Blatter’s re-election. Russian commentators claim it is part of a ploy to strip Russia of its hosting rights and give them to England.

The Football Federation Australia is also under scrutiny for failing to report to police the alleged theft of $500,000 in 2010. The money was transferred to an account held by the corrupt official Jack Warner, ostensibly for the redevelopment of a stadium. But it disappeared soon after. Questions have been raised about whether the FFA did enough to check where the money was going, and whether it wanted to win favour with Warner to secure his support for Australia’s bid to host the World Cup.

Blood on the field

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar has also been embroiled, with allegations of vote buying. The decision to award the event to Qatar caused widespread shock, given its tiny population, extreme heat and complete lack of suitable stadiums or even a domestic soccer league.

But while the corporate media have been in a frenzy about the scandal, engaging in endless speculation about which countries may win or lose hosting rights, the plight of migrant workers in Qatar has gone mostly undocumented.

The tiny oil rich kingdom is spending around $300 billion to construct a grand collection of hotels, freeways and stadiums for the tournament. But the construction workforce is made up almost entirely of migrant workers living in the country with few rights.

Workers building stadiums for the World Cup have been dying at a rate of one per day over the last 18 months. The Guardian estimates that all up 4000 workers will die during construction. They are forced to work through soaring temperatures above 50C and safety precautions go ignored.

Workers endure cramped and unsanitary housing conditions, often provided directly by the companies employing them, which use this arrangement to control them. Many Nepalese workers lured to Qatar with promises of a steady income to send back to families, have paid for their airfares and travelled there, only to find no job and no prospects on arrival.

Others, who do find work, are often mistreated, underpaid or not paid at all and forced to work in horrendous conditions without proper breaks. When workers have spoken out about these abuses, they have been thrown into effective slavery as the bosses hold their passports. This means they cannot leave the country because they will not be issued with an exit visa.

Some have been forced to work without pay and have been left begging for food on the street.

Sport is big business. Just like every other part of the capitalist economy soccer is a source of huge profits, with corruption rife and the labourers seen as only another commodity.

By Miro Sandev


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