Six FIFA Members Accused Of Wrongdoing In World Cup Corruption Scandal

More corruption charges have arrived at FIFA, as world soccer's governing body is now faced with new accusations that six Executive Committee members were involved in wrongdoing during World Cup bidding.

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Sepp Blatter: Vote Trading Took Place In 2018, 2022 FIFA World Cup Selections

Vote trading occurred when FIFA's executive committee awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. That's both a statement of what's been common knowledge and a report this evening out of England, where a Sepp Blatter interview with the BBC led to the FIFA president's confirmation that deals were make between groups bidding for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.

The 2018 World Cup was awarded to Russia in December. On the same day, Qatar was awarded the 2022 tournament. Both decisions were received harshly by the English-language press, particularly in England and the United States, nations whose bids to host the tournaments failed to win the approval of the executive committee.

Per the BBC's interview (in comments published this evening at The Telegraph), Blatter says the Spain-Portugal group (2018 bidders) was acting in conjunction with the Qataris, creating a block of votes that supported Spain-Portugal for 2018, Qatar for 2022:

"I’ll be honest, there was a bundle of votes between Spain and Qatar," Blatter said. "But it was a nonsense. It was there but it didn’t work, not for one and not for the other side."

Paul Kelso, reporting for The Telegraph, tries to provide reason to question Blatter's assertion, though the logic is less salient than descriptive. Noting that the Spain-Portugal bid received seven votes in the 2018 process, Kelso extrapolates what similar influence may have done for the 2022 decision:

If, as Blatter claimed yesterday, Qatar received the same seven votes, it provided more than half of the 12 they required to win.

Whether Blatter or Kelso feel the block influenced the outcomes is likely irrelevant, for a couple of reasons. First, it's unlikely that we'll ever have enough certain information to examine the voting with the necessary detail. Even if we had interviews with every executive committee member, there would be reason to question if, with time to consider the outcomes and reactions, motives and stories have changed since the time of the vote. Even after committee member Chuck Blazer tried to confirm he voted for the United States, some questioned whether he was telling the truth.

Second (and more to the point), people likely to be enraged by this quasi-revelation are likely people who already believed FIFA is run by Swiss Sopranos, England and the United States should form their own governing body (presumably playing two nation Word Cups), and nothing like this has ever happened before, be it in FIFA or any other organization that engages in political processes as a means of making decisions. It makes it much easier to stomach U.S. Soccer losing to Qatar if it's a product of an irrational process.

That the process may actually be irrational is what will keep this story alive for 11 more years. Are you ready for it? Over a decade of brooding? The festering discontent of false expectations, survived by a constant stream of revelations, stoking sentiment set to be projected onto each hint of ill-preparedness we hear from Qatar between now and 2022?

Last month, it was indignation about a January World Cup (FIFA should have to revote!) This month, it's vote trading. What ever angle comes with March's iteration of this meme, I'm sure it will get mention in this space.


World Cup 2022 Announcement: Qatar Chosen Hosts Over United States, Australia

It was one of the strangest hosting proposals ever. Air conditioned stadiums. A country with a population roughly the size of Phoenix, Arizona. An emirate with only one major city. Qatar overcame those obstacles as well as strong opposition of the United States and Russia to win FIFA's approval to host the 2022 World Cup.

The shocking announcement affirms FIFA President Sepp Blatter's intent to take the world's biggest sporting event to new places. Speaking after the Qatari delegation thanked the executive committee for their support, Blatter spoke of the novelty of having Russia, announced hosts of the 2018 tournament, and Qatar as World Cup sites. Neither have previously hosted the World Cup.

Qatar, like Russia, faces significant infrastructure issues, though the biggest concern will be environmental. The Qatari delegation spent most of their time leading into today's vote convincing committee members that summer heat on the Arabian Peninsula (where temperatures could reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit), will not be an issue. Air condition stadiums designed to lower the temperature of the play surface were proposed.

While Australia, Japan, and South Korea were also rejected with the Qatar announcement, the United States will be the most disappointed. U.S. Soccer and the proposal it put forth had been seen as the favorites, but a late surge of confidence in the Qatar bid overshadowed the efforts of USSF President Sunil Gulati and former President of the United States Bill Clinton, who carries a high profile in the days before the announcement.

The Russia and Qatar announcements have already led to speculation of FIFA's motives, with England and the United States viewed as the most ready of the 2018 and 2022 bidders. However, as was the case with South Africa's hosting the 2010 tournament, FIFA has again shown a strong commitment to taking soccer to new locations across the globe.


World Cup 2018 Announcement: Russia Beats England, Spain-Portugal To Host First World Cup

Russia has won the rights to hoost the 2018 World Cup, it was announced moments ago. Confirming speculation that had leaked out in the minutes before FIFA President Sepp Blatter's announcement, Russia beat out England, Spain-Portugal, and Netherlands-Belgium to win the rights to host it's first World Cup.

Russia has been a slight favorite to win the hosting rights until the last few days. Then, England's bid had surged back into contention, while some reports had seen Spain-Portugal's bid as emboldened. Instead, what had been suspected over the last year ends up playing out, with the Russians winning the rights to hold the world's biggest sporting event.

In accepted the honor, Russian representatives thanked the crowd in Zurich for entrusting the tournament to the first time host. Russia still faces significant infrastructure challenges, needing improvements with stadia, transportation, and hospitality. However, their current readiness was seen as a secondary issue to taking the tournament to a new part of the world, something that has always been one of Blatter's stated goals.

Sepp Blatter, in his final remarks congratulating Russia, expressed hopes that the World Cup will help organize soccer in that region of the world.


World Cup 2018, World Cup 2022 Announcements: Clock Watching Begins After 2018 Presentations End

Russia has just finished their presentation, being the final of the 2018 aspirants to make their case to the FIFA Executive Committee. While it included a jibe at the dry (read: boring) Spain/Portugal presentation, the Russians missed too many opportunities to highlight their ability to keep state department secrets. I guess they're not as mad about the whole WikiLeaks thing as they're letting on.

The committee now retires to start the voting. We wait to judge the smoke. If it's white, the voting continues. It's red, white and blue, that means the U.S., if it's the 2022 voting. Else, it's Russia. Who'd have ever thought we'd have that in common? The decisions are expected to be announced at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time.

Here how the voting works. For both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, each Executive Committee member will vote for one of the proposals. Twelve votes are required for a proposal to win. If a round of voting passes without a proposal getting that majority, the least supported bid will be eliminated and another round of voting commences. If the final round of voting ends in a tie, FIFA President Sepp Blatter will cast the deciding vote.

While voting to decide the last World Cup host took only one round, it is likely each of the 2018 and 2022 hosts will need more than one round to be identified. Back in 2004, 2010 host South Africa was chosen on the first ballot by a 14-10 margin over Morocco (Egypt got no votes), But that ballot bears few similarities to today's, given South Africa had narrowly and controversially lost the 2006 World Cup's vote four years earlier. For that Cup, balloting took three rounds to chose Germany, who won 12-11 on a third ballot when one FIFA member, thought to likely to vote for South Africa, abstained.

That vote, which took place in July 2000, is the best analog for today's ballots. Where the 2014 ballot saw Brazil run unopposed in a South America-only race (and the 2010 selection was limited to African nations), today's votes will be more competitive. The 2018 selections have been narrowed to a European field, both the presence of three competitive bids makes two-to-three ballots probable. The 2022 ballot sees one CONCACAF proposal (the United States') competing with four Asian bids.

The United States is still considered the favorite for that Cup, though Japan's 3D heavy presentation has opened some eyes. But the Japanese are considered a fourth favorite, at best, in large part because they were co-hosts for the 2002 tournament. South Korea, who shared hosting rights in 2002, are even longer shots. The States' chief competition is Qatar, whose main virtue is Sepp Blatter's understood intent to take soccer to new places. Should he take it to the Arabian Peninsula, the tournament will have to deal with unprecedented heat issues, one of the reasons why Australia has emerged as many's non-U.S. choice.

This morning the 2018 aspirants made their case to the executive committee. That field's comprised of a Netherlands-Belgium joint-bid, a similar proposal from Spain-Portugal, England's much discussed candidacy, as well as Russia, the acknowledged favorite. The Netherlands-Belgium presentation came first, a presentation leaning heavily on Dutch soccer iconography and the idea of a greener World Cup (two million bicycles to be made available). The Spain-Portugal presentation, said to be a bit boring, was dignitary-heavy, emphasizing their proposal has support from all confederations (better phrased as "some support").  England's presentation featured the trifecta of Prince William, David Cameron, and David Beckham, with a video that used the power of Premier League celebrities like Alex Ferguson. The final presentation, Russia's, was "dream" themed, talking about what the tournament would mean to a country that's never hosted the tournament.

Early reviews hint England's presentation was today's most convincing. The good reviews also include an allusion to it not mattering. Undoubtedly, committee members knew where they were voting before these final arguments began.

Those members have now retired to their chimney'd room. Consultants from the Vatican are advising on the colored smoke. The proceedings have begun, and in two-and-a-half hours (at 10 a.m. Eastern) we'll know where the next two Cups are going. While I love the idea of smoke signals rising from the Zurich compound, telling the world of the committee's choice, word is they're going to straight out tell us.

Again, such a missed opportunity.


World Cup 2022 Bids: United States Competing With Qatar, Australia For 2022 World Cup

On Wednesday, the United States sent Morgan Freeman, Landon Donovan and Bill Clinton to Zurich, Switzerland as part of its 2022 World Cup bid presentation. On Thursday, they'll find out if it was enough. 

The U.S. is aiming to host the World Cup in 2022, welcoming the world's largest sporting event to America for the second time (after originally hosting in 1994). But they're up against real competition from the rest of the world as Australia, Japan, Qatar and South Korea all have bids in as well. Though it seems likely the final decision will come down to the U.S. and Qatar. 

2022 World Cup Bids: 

United States - Considered the favorite by many for 2022. The U.S. would not need to build any new stadiums; it can offer one of the world's most enormous economies; it's home to a now more-respected MLS; and there's the fact that Americans bought more tickets to the 2010 World Cup than any other country (besides the South African hosts). Its relatively recent hosting job in 1994 may hurt its case, however.  

Qatar - If the U.S. doesn't win, then the 2022 bid will (probably) go to Qatar. The oil-rich country is seeking to become the first Arab country to host the the World Cup. However, the tiny country (pop. around 1.7 million) faces a big obstacle: the heat. The average temperature in Qatar in June and July in Qatar is 105 degrees, with the lows still at 85 (FIFA's report said it's "a potential health risk for players, officials, the FIFA family and spectators"). But it's a dry heat? 

To overcome those temperatures, Qatar is planning to build amazing temperature controlled stadiums that not only can lower the temperature by up to 68 degrees, but they'll also be designed so that after the World Cup, the stadium's upper tiers will be disassembled and donated to countries with less developed sports infrastructure. 

Australia - Australia remains the only continent that has not hosted a World Cup, and 2022 may very well be their year (Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl has them at 5:2 odds). During their presentation the Aussies asked FIFA to recognize it as "the world's greatest playground" and vote Australia for 2022, the same country that hosted the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and more recently, the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Australia has 75 percent of the necessary stadiums already built, but unfortunately for them, they're part of the Asian confederation, which means if selected, FIFA would not be able to put a World Cup in China until possibly 2034 -- and FIFA wants its tournament in the world's most populous country sooner than that. Australia's time difference from soccer-crazed Europe doesn't do them any favors either. 

Japan - Considered a longshot after co-hosting with South Korea so recently (2002). But, they're promising an amazingly high-tech event, complete with instant translation devices so fans from other countries can talk to each other and broadcasting the matches in "life-sized holograms." 

South Korea - Considered a near-equal longshot as its 2002 co-host Japan, South Korea is also promising to including a North Korean host city. 


Wednesday featured the presentations from the 2022 hopefuls. On Thursday, Belgium-Netherlands (beginning at 3 a.m. ET), Spain-Portugal, England and Russia will make their final case for the 2018 World Cup. FIFA will begin the voting process at 8 a.m. and then at 10 a.m. ET on Thursday, will make the 2018 and 2022 World Cup host nations announcement. 

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