Corruption in Sports Research Paper

Pages: 15 (4596 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 14  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Business - Ethics

Corruption in Sport

On December 2nd, 2010, it was announced that the 2018 World Cup would go to Russia and the 2022 World Cup would be hosted by Qatar. The sport's governing body, the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) had made the selections on the basis of votes from its 22-member executive committee (AP, 2010). There had been accusations of corruption leading up to the vote -- most notably in the United Kingdom, which was bidding for 2018 -- and the announcement did nothing to calm the corruption accusations.

Immediately, the corruption accusations grew louder. The selection of Qatar in particular came under immediate fire. The nation had never qualified for a World Cup, all of the stadiums would be within one hour of each as Qatar only has one city, there are reservations about its human rights record including the oppression of women in the Arab state. The heat in Qatar in summer -- upwards of 46C (115F) -- is a health risk to players, prompting such outlandish solutions as splitting games into three thirds (No author, 2011) and the use of outdoor air-conditioning systems and shade panels to keep temperatures at playable levels (AP, 2010).

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As the heat increased on FIFA, it conducted an internal investigation. The outcome of that was a finding of corruption for Mohamed bin Hammam, a Qatari FIFA executive and possible challenger to FIFA President Sepp Blatter's leadership. It was found that bin Hammam was found to have tried to buy the votes of Caribbean officials for $40,000 each, and having broken several articles of the FIFA ethics code. The investigation had also targeted other members, including Trinidad's Jack Warner who resigned, effectively ending the investigation against him (Homewood, 2011).

TOPIC: Research Paper on Corruption in Sports Assignment

This essay will investigate the FIFA corruption scandal. The timeline of the scandal will first be presented. This will be followed by an outline of the nature of corruption, including how corruption can become ingrained in organizational culture. The specific issues in the FIFA situation will be analyzed in the context of the general framework for understanding corruption. The report will conclude with recommendations to eliminate corruption in FIFA and learning opportunities for sports organizations seeking to elimination corruption in their ranks.

Corruption Timeline

In the run-up to the World Cup vote, a British newspaper made claims that two members of the FIFA executive committee, from Tahiti and Nigeria, offered to sell their votes to undercover newspaper reporters. The two were suspended by FIFA's ethics committee and eventually banned. A further report by the BBC made more accusations of vote-selling/trading. The next month, the UK was eliminated in the first round of voting for the 2018 World Cup. The nation investigated the issue, and uncovered evidence that Qatar paid for two votes from African delegates. Four others were found to have asked for favors in exchange for votes. A presidential leadership vote was scheduled, with Blatter facing Bin Hammam -- the latter stepped down hours before the vote and was eventually banned for life (Homewood & Davis, 2011).

The investigation at FIFA has continued, with an announcement expected in December 2011 on the findings. The organization has set up a number of anti-corruption panels in response to the accusations (PA, 2011). Concerns remain, however, with British politicians calling for European nations to spearhead a full-scale change in FIFA's culture and the Australian government asking FIFA to refund its bid application as it "could not succeed because of corruption within" the organization (Cooper, 2011).

No matter the findings in December, the cloud of corruption will hang over the organization. FIFA still lacks basic accountability, and its leader Sepp Blatter is unwilling to accept any culpability for the corruption issue, or to re-hold the voting for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. That he presided over this era of endemic corruption is bad enough, but it is reasonable to view with suspicion the manner in which his main rival for leadership of the organization was found guilty of corruption immediately before the leadership vote. The timing of the findings was certainly fortuitous for Mr. Blatter.

The FIFA scandal echoes similar scandals. The 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City was marred by scandal. Its organizations were accused of spending thousands of dollars on gifts, cash payments, health care benefits and real estate to win the votes of International Olympic Committee members (CNN, 1999). At those games, five figure skating judges were found to have colluded to award the gold medal to a Russian couple, and there is evidence that reforms have failed to curtail these unethical activities (Fisman, 2010). In international sports, vote-buying is a common form of corruption.

The Nature of Corruption

The corruption watchdog group Transparency International defines corruption as "the abuse of entrusted power for private gain." From this simple definition a whole host of activities emerge, including bribery, kickbacks and embezzlement (Transparency International, 2011). In Western nations, which tend to have low levels of corruption and where it is understood that corruption is a drag on economic progress, any indication of corruption in international sport is viewed with revulsion. Yet in other nations, corruption is an ingrained part of life. International bodies like the FIFA and in particular the IOC are based on neoliberal philosophy, arguing that by bringing nations together a common set of cultural values -- positive ones -- can develop. Many aspects to today's international world system derive from this philosophy, including the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and the EU. Liberalism is also congruent with social contract theory, which argues that individuals engage in implicit social contracts that moderate behavior (Gaus & Courtland, 2010). Thus, to participate in an international system one engages not only is explicit contracts such as the FIFA code of ethics but implicit ones as well.

The implicit social contracts that govern one's willingness to engage in corrupt behavior, however, will vary according to one's culture. Connelly and Ones (2008) conducted a study that found a relationship between specific cultural traits using Geert Hofstede's framework and perceived corruption. Influencers included levels of neuroticism, extroversion, wealth, economic conditions and demographic variables. In another study, Seleim and Bontis (2009) found correlation between corruption in a culture and its level of uncertainty avoidance, collectivism/individualism and human orientation practices, also traits described by Hofstede. While these studies do not agree on the markers of corruption, they both identify a link between culture and corruption. Both FIFA and the IOC have similar voting structures, as votes for both are distributed around the world to different nations without bias. If these nations have a culture that is more likely to have corruption based on cultural markers, then this increases the corruption risk for the organization as a whole.

Compounding the problem in both organizations, but with particular attention to the FIFA case, is a lack of transparency and oversight. The external investigations into FIFA's activities were conducted without help from the agency, and generally without access to FIFA internal documents. There is no external watchdog, and the organization has no transparency to the outside world, if it even has any internally. While FIFA has an ethics committee, it was only forced into the first investigation with respect to vote-buying after a British newspaper story uncovered the corruption. The voting process, it can be inferred, is assumed by internal stakeholders to be clean until such time as evidence arises that it is not.

Such an assumption in the case of FIFA would entirely unwarranted. Testimony from former executive committee member Graham Taylor of the UK made the following observations about the executive committee in the 1990s. He noted that corruption was endemic, with committee members claiming tax breaks on benefits they themselves did not pay for, and that he was recommended by another executive committee member to "open up a Swiss bank account…over the years the money will accumulate" (Sharp, 2011).

The above example shows that corruption is something that can become endemic in an organizational culture. If the activities that define corruption become accepted, then there is little incentive on the part of members of the organization to avoid corrupt practices. Again, if there is poor oversight and no transparency within the organization, then corrupt practices can flourish. The pattern of corruption is clear -- the main players implicated are from nations with high levels of corruption -- Africa, the Pacific, the Caribbean and the Middle East. Among the characteristics of these nations are high power distance, high wealth disparity, and a lack of collectivism in their cultures. It may be a broad generalization but these nations also generally lack the same high level of transparency and accountability in their political and economic systems as Western nations. When their delegates enter an international organization, they bring with them those same bad habits. When they find the same lack of transparency and accountability as in their home nations, corrupt practices will follow.

The lack of accountability in international sport, particularly FIFA is at high levels. The organization has significant… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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