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FIFA corruption: Could Russia, Qatar lose their World Cups?

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Soccer Scandal Won't Hold Russia's World Cup Bid Back


If there is enough evidence of wrongdoing, FIFA has the power to strip the World Cup from both Russia and Qatar.

Soccer's governing body, currently engulfed in the worst corruption scandal in its 111-year history, has a provision which allows it to revoke hosting rights for "unforeseen contingencies and force majeure."

"If there is still evidence that a substantial amount (of votes) have been bought by illegal means, then of course it could be changed," Swiss law professor and anti-corruption expert Mark Pieth told The Associated Press. "I would not totally rule it out, and of course there are many other questions linked to it."

So far, the Russians and Qataris don't seem to be worried.

FIFA has been plunged into crisis since seven officials were arrested in dawn raids last week at a luxury Zurich hotel ahead of the FIFA congress. They were among 14 indicted by U.S. authorities on corruption charges.

In a separate probe, Swiss authorities are investigating the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests, which went to Russia and Qatar.

In the wake of the two investigations, FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced his decision to resign. That came only four days after he was re-elected for a fifth, four-term.

U.S. authorities are also looking specifically at the 79-year-old Blatter, but he has not been formally charged.

Russia was awarded the 2018 World Cup and Qatar was given the 2022 tournament in an executive committee vote in Zurich in December 2010. Accusations of vote-buying followed quickly, and FIFA appointed American lawyer Michael Garcia as the lead investigator into possible wrongdoing. Garcia submitted his report late last year, but soon resigned after a disagreement over what was in the file.

Garcia's full report has never been released, but FIFA turned over the document to the Swiss authorities who are still investigating possible corruption.

Several members on that 24-man executive committee have been largely discredited since the vote, including a life ban for Qatari official Mohammed Bin Hammam and some resignations and shorter bans for others.

Besides the Swiss investigation, Australia has added to the pressure with its own police investigation. Australia was one of the losing bidders in the 2022 contest.

FIFA has made late changes to big tournaments before, though not on the same scale. Colombia withdrew as the host of the 1986 World Cup four years before kickoff because of economic problems and Mexico stepped in. The 2003 Women's World Cup was switched from China to the United States with only six months' notice because of the outbreak of the SARS virus.

England, Germany and the United States could be potential replacement hosts for the next two World Cups.

The FIFA executive committee - the powerful panel of officials that awarded the World Cup to Russia and Qatar in the first place - would likely have the final say on where the next two World Cups will be played.

And the position of some of the top executives and possible contenders to succeed Blatter as president are complicated, especially when it comes to Qatar's bid, the most contentious.

Michel Platini, the president of European body UEFA and a stern critic of Blatter, voted for Qatar. Africa soccer confederation president Issa Hayatou, the most senior executive after Blatter, has close links with Qatar. And Prince Ali bin Hussein of Jordan, who lost to Blatter in last week's election, has consistently said Qatar deserves to host the first World Cup in the Middle East.

The Qataris have been saying little since the FIFA crisis erupted, but claim they were cleared by FIFA after Garcia's report was submitted.

"The results of his investigation showed there was no suspicion," Qatari foreign minister Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah said.

FIFA ethics judge Joachim Eckert, who assessed Garcia's report, cited "problematic facts and circumstances" about the Qatar bid and other candidates but said the evidence was not enough to compromise the bidding process as a whole.

The Russians have criticized the United States for its part in the investigations, with President Vladimir Putin saying the American authorities were meddling in soccer affairs.

"There is a persecution going on with a maniacal desire to accuse Russia of some improbable crimes which then force others to decide to take the World Cup away from us," Russian deputy sports minister Natalya Parshikova said.

The United States was another losing bidder in the vote for the 2022 tournament.

Russia has spent much of its $12.4 billion budget, with three stadiums completed and nine more in the works. Qatar has five stadiums in progress and reportedly a $200 billion budget.

The deciding factor on a revote, however, may still be in the hands of the investigators.

"What would be awkward and could happen is that you have evidence two or three votes have been bought, and is that sufficient?" Pieth said.

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FIFA raids, controversy
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FIFA corruption: Could Russia, Qatar lose their World Cups?
Swiss attorney General Michael Lauber attends a press conference on June 17, 2015 in Bern. Swiss authorities are investigating the 2010 FIFA vote that awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
NAGOYA, JAPAN - DECEMBER 07: Chuck Blazer Chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA Club World Cup talks to the media during the FIFA Club World Cup Organising Committee Press Conference at Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel on December 7, 2011 in Nagoya, Japan. (Photo by Shaun Botterill - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - MAY 27: An FBI agent wearing a mask carries a box from the headquarters of CONCACAF after it was raided on May 27, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. The raid is part of an international investigation of FIFA where nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - MAY 27: FBI agents carry boxes and computers from the headquarters of CONCACAF after it was raided on May 27, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. The raid is part of an international investigation of FIFA where nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - MAY 27: FBI agents carry boxes from the headquarters of CONCACAF after it was raided on May 27, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. The raid is part of an international investigation of FIFA where nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - MAY 27: FBI agents carry boxes from the headquarters of CONCACAF after it was raided on May 27, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. The raid is part of an international investigation of FIFA where nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 27: Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks at a packed news conference at the U.S. Attorneys Office of the Eastern District of New York following the early morning arrest of world soccer figures, including officials of FIFA, for racketeering, bribery, money laundering and fraud on May 27, 2015 in New York City. The morning arrests took place at a hotel where FIFA members were attending a meeting for the world governing body of soccer (football) in Switzerland. The Justice Department unsealed a 47 count indictment early Wednesday charging 14 world soccer figures. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Costa Rican Football Federation acting President Jorge Hidalgo speaks during a press conference on May 27, 2015, in Lindora, 20 km west of San Jose, about the capture of Costa Rican Football Federation President Eduardo Li and six executives of FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland. AFP PHOTO / Ezequiel BECERRA (Photo credit should read EZEQUIEL BECERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
US Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announces charges against FIFA officials at a news conference on May 27, 2015 in New York. The soccer officials arrested on Wednesday in an investigation into the FIFA governing body have corrupted the international game, Lynch said Wednesday. She spoke after Swiss authorities acting on the US indictments detained several FIFA leaders in a dawn raid in Zurich as part of a corruption probe that has rocked the sport's governing body. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio arrives to give a press conference at the FIFA headquarters, on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio gives a press conference at the FIFA headquarters, on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio gives a press conference at the FIFA headquarters, on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
A staff waits prior to a press conference at the FIFA heaquarters on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA Director of Communications Walter de Gregorio attends a press conference at the FIFA headquarters on May 27, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain top FIFA football officials as part of a US investigation. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
FIFA Director of Communications Walter de Gregorio reacts during a press conference at the FIFA headquarters on May 27, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. Swiss police on Wednesday raided a Zurich hotel to detain top FIFA football officials as part of a US investigation. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
A man walks by the headquarters of the international soccer's top body FIFA in Zurich, on May 27, 2015. Swiss police raided the headquarters of FIFA in Zurich, seizing documents and data, the Swiss attorney-general's office said. The raids were part of an investigation already underway into money laundering and fraud involving FIFA's awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively, a statement said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
A cloud is seen above the headquarters of international soccer's top body FIFA, on May 27, 2015 in Zurich. Swiss policeraided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
A woman walks by a logo of international soccer's top body FIFA, on May 27, 2015 at the organization's headquarters in Zurich. Swiss policeraided a Zurich hotel to detain six top football officials as part of a US investigation into tens of millions of dollars of bribes paid to sport leaders, Swiss authorities and media reports said. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
Media gathers outside the Hotel Baur-au-Lac where Swiss authorities conducted an early morning operation on May 27, 2015 to arrest several top soccer officials and extradite them to the United States on federal corruption charges. FIFA said it was seeking to clarify the situation after six football officials were arrested in Zurich on the request of US authorities, suspected of receiving bribes worth millions of dollars. (Photo credit AFP/Getty Images)
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