The idea to put the World Cup in the Middle East was never inherently bad.
In fact, as Cornerstone Global Associates founder Ghanem Nuseibeh posted on Harvard University’s ethics blog, “FIFA’s insistence to award the 2022 [World Cup] to an Arab country [was] more ethical than not awarding it to an Arab country.”
Having already taken world football’s most prestigious event throughout Europe and to each of North America, South America, Africa and the Far East, the governing body’s omission of the region was always going to be addressed and in December 2010, Qatar was awarded the hosting rights to the 2022 tournament.
The country and its World Cup have since become a symbol of FIFA corruption—an easy target for everyone from investigative journalists to human rights advocates.
In that, the organization has only itself to blame.
Monday’s disclosure that a one-time FIFA vice-president accepted payments from another FIFA executive, as reported by The Telegraph, and presumably in exchange for supporting the Qatari bid, was hardly a revelation. Indeed, it merely confirmed the irregularities that had long been suspected.
The men at the centre of the investigation—Jack Warner and Mohamed Bin Hammam—have since left their FIFA posts, whether through retirement in the case of the former (although Warner was also accused of other illegal activity, as per The Guardian) or a lifetime ban in the case of the latter.
Five of the other executive committee members that made up the 24-person body in 2010 have also either moved on or been moved along, suspicions of wrong-doing hanging over all of them, according to The Telegraph.
Given that nearly 30 per cent of the executive committee that weighed the various 2022 World Cup bids was apparently corrupt, the entire process must be called into question and the spectre of a rerun should not be discounted.
It’s the process, after all, that overlooked the impossibility of holding the competition in the heat of June and July. And while a World Cup put on in the European winter was never illogical, the prospect of such a rescheduling went unmentioned in Qatar’s official bid, as FIFA president Sepp Blatter admitted in an interview with Inside World Football.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s migrant worker program—hardly new and hardly introduced for World Cup infrastructure—might at least have come under increased scrutiny had Blatter and Co. not been so gung-ho about the location. Process be damned.
And so, according to Nuseibeh’s Harvard write-up, FIFA are left with four options: stay the course and hold the World Cup in the European summer; move it to the winter but keep it in Qatar; hold a voting rerun to either confirm Qatar as hosts or find another; or strike a compromise.
That a significant portion of the 2010 executive committee was toxic would seem to make the case for a rerun, but FIFA would never have it.
Such an exercise would be viewed as a referendum on the organisation’s credibility—something it would never abide.
In the end it’s a compromise solution that will likely keep at least a handful of games in Qatar, spread the rest throughout the region, scale back the migrant worker program and kick off in either November or January.
It’s not ideal but at this point it’s the best that can be salvaged from a good idea botched and abused beyond its original and well-meaning purpose.