What are the legal rights of affected parties from Qatar 2022 allegations?Jack Anderson
At its core, the agreement between FIFA and Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup is contractual in nature and thus the situation based on the Sunday Times revelations is clear: the host contract is invalid and should not be allowed stand.
The application of this legal principle may be somewhat advantageous to FIFA. Last month, FIFA President Sepp Blatter admitted that FIFA’s awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was a "mistake" given the blistering summer temperatures in which the tournament will have to be played.3 In addition, human rights issues from anti-gay legislation to women’s rights to the conditions of 1.4million migrant workers on Qatari stadia sites have also embarrassed FIFA.4
Moreover, FIFA is well aware that the countries that unsuccessfully bid for the 2022 World Cup, and particularly the football governing body in Australia (FFA), are closely monitoring current developments. There have been hints from such sources of possible legal action for compensation premised on the fact that millions of pounds – an estimated £25million in the FFA’s case – was spent on preparations for a bidding process that now appears tainted.5
The above legal perspective is, however, predicated on two important points.
On this point, it is of note that a person central to the Sunday Times’ allegation is Mohamed Bin Hammam, a former FIFA official who was initially banned for life from football in July 2011 after being found guilty of attempted bribery during the FIFA presidential election campaign of that year. His ban was, however, struck down in 2012 by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which said the case against him was not proven and that the investigation by FIFA’s Ethics Committee was insufficiently complete.6
Second, we now know that the Sunday Times’ revelations will not inform the investigations currently carried out into both the 2018 (Russia) and 2022 World Cup bids by FIFA’s ethics investigator, Michael Garcia , a former FBI official. Garcia, who apparently has already spent almost £6million in the course of his global investigation, is under pressure to deliver a report to FIFA’s Sao Paulo Congress on 9-11 June.7
In light of mounting pressure from official sponsors (Adidas, Coca-Cola, Visa and Hyundai/Kia) to instigate an appropriate investigation, Garcia may well be mandated by FIFA at its forthcoming Congress to further investigate the Sunday Times’ revelations.8 If so, he is likely to face four significant challenges.
The substantive complexity of such investigations must be reiterated, as must the procedural due process demands made by CAS. Errors on either point by FIFA’s Ethic Committee would leave it vulnerable to legal challenge by the aggrieved but well-resourced Qatari Organising Committee, which plans spend US$200 billion over the next decade as it prepares to host the 2022 World Cup. In short, the same resources that secured the cup in the first place will be deployed to save it.9
Beyond a blanket denial, Garcia can likely expect the Qataris to make the argument that any wrongdoing that might be found was performed by a rogue agents outside their control. This is one of the arguments made by UK pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in reaction to last month’s announcement by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office that it had initiated an investigation into alleged illegal payments by GSK to foreign public officials in China.10
Similarly, and as explained in detail in a blog on this site by Kevin Carpenter11, if you are not a member of the “football family”, as FIFA like to call it, then Garcia cannot compel you to cooperate. Mohamed bin Hammam, for instance, quit football in late 2012 after FIFA issued him with a second life ban for conflicts of interests while he was president of the Asian Football Confederation. Even where an individual is subject to FIFA’s disciplinary jurisdiction (such as 14 of the 22 FIFA Executive Committee members who voted for Qatar and who ultimately ignored FIFA’s own technical report on the potential heat risks) they, if ever disciplined, would have an internal right of appeal within FIFA and the external right to challenge any finding at CAS.
It must not be forgotten, however, that we have been here before. Allegations of inappropriate payments were made surround the bidding process for the 2002 Winter Olympics. The fallout there led, in the short term, to the reconstitution of the Salt Lake City Organising Committee and, more fundamentally and enduringly, to genuine reform of Olympic Games’ bidding process. A similar pattern may emerge here.12
As a postscript, and as highlighted yet again by the indefatigable Declan Hill in the New York Times, FIFA has made a big play in recent years about the integrity threat posed to football, and indeed World Cup matches, by match-fixers.13 Match fixing, as with any form of corruption, thrives where an industry or corporate entity is poorly regulated and governed. The Sunday Times’ revelations clearly illustrate this link.
Most concerns raised by relating to match-fixing focus on the threat emanating from Asia in the last decade or so. And who was the President of the Asian Football Confederation from 1 August 2002 to 14 June 2011 under whose watch this threat grew? Mohamed Bin Hammam.
Jack Anderson is a Professor of Law at Queen’s University Belfast. A version of this article appeared previously in The Conversation and The Irish Times.
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- Tags: Anti-Corruption | Asian Football Confederation (AFC) | Australia | Contract Law | Corruption | Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) | FIFA | Football | Fraud | Governance | Integrity | Match-Fixing | Qatar | Regulation | Winter Olympic Games | World Cup
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About the Author
Jack Anderson is Professor and Director of Sports Law Studies at the University of Melbourne. The sports law program at Melbourne was one of the first to be established globally in the mid-1980 and continues to expand at the Melbourne Law School, which itself is ranked in the top 10 law schools globally.
Jack has published widely in the area including monographs such as The Legality of Boxing (Routledge 2007) and Modern Sports Law (Hart 2010) and edited collections such as Landmark Cases in Sports Law (Asser 2013) and EU Sports Law (Edward Elgar 2018 with R Parrish and B Garcia). He was Editor-in-Chief of the International Sports Law Journal based at the International Sports Law Centre at the Asser Institute from 2013 to 2016.
Appointed as an arbitrator to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2016, he became a member of the inaugural International Amateur Athletics Federation’s Disciplinary Tribunal and the International Hockey Federation’s Integrity Unit in 2017. In 2018, he was the sole CAS arbitrator at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia. In 2019, he was appointed to the International Tennis Federation’s Ethics Commission. He is currently chair of the Advisory Group establishing a National Sports Tribunal for Australia