Anti-corruption investigators in the Cayman Islands have arrested a FIFA executive in connection with bribery allegations. Canover Watson, a member of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee, was reportedly quizzed about alleged money laundering and abuse of public office. The case reportedly involves a 2010 contract to supply public hospitals with swipe-card billing technology.
The Qatar World Cup 2022 bid has also thrown FIFA’s practices and operations into very sharp relief and prompted a review of the bidding process, the results of which will not be made public. But why should they? FIFA, as powerful as it is, is a private entity and is not publicly accountable. However, media attention on allegations of corruption within the world’s largest sporting contest has ruffled feathers among the associations multi-national partners, whose businesses depend on consumer support.
In June, several of FIFA’s major corporate sponsors released statements on the association’s probe into allegations of bribery. Corporate entities act fast when their revenue is threatened. That may be a cynical stance, but at least it acknowledges the extent of consumer power. The Qatar World Cup organisers hit back at the claims that Prince Mohammed bin Hammam had paid bribes to secure the competition, insisting he was “not a member of the bid team.” Nonetheless, mud sticks and it has forced the corporate sponsors to make public their stance on corruption.
Corruption harms the weakest
For a further reminder about why anti-bribery and corruption is on our agenda, and why financial institutions and corporates are being asked to focus on these ills, read this fantastic glimpse of life on the Solomon Islands, published on The Wireless. Politics are viewed as something that the people cannot engage in. Young people – the future of the Solomon Islands’ culture, economy and society – are left to fester in poverty, self-medicating with alcohol and drugs. This huge distance between voters and the elected few allows corruption to grow and rots society.
Tragically, hundreds of Nepalese construction workers have died while building the stadia for the World Cup in Qatar. The vast majority of migrant workers in Qatar are in bonded labour, forced to work in barbaric conditions. In March 2014, the international football association acknowledged its ability to help improve the situation of labour rights and working conditions in Qatar.
Although anti-corruption efforts can be used as a political tool – as some suggest they are in China – they do nonetheless draw public attention. And public attention, or at least consumer attention, drives markets.
FIFA is more than an association, it is a travelling country, a moveable state that sets up stall once every four years in a new location and wields power and influence wherever it lands.
Here’s hoping it can work towards changing labour conditions and stemming the flow of corruption.