It’s difficult to read about the current crisis in FIFA without a slight sense of schadenfreude. Since England lost the chance to host the World Cup 2018 with an embarrassing two votes going to our bid, there has been a general mood of antipathy towards world football’s governing body. The fact that the World Cup went to Russia, who have a rather questionable human rights record, limited press freedom and what some have described as a ‘mafia state’, made the loss all the more painful. But that day FIFA managed the double whammy of bad decisions and awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a country where there are many problems, one of the worst being homosexuality is illegal. There was a sense that something ‘wasn’t right’ and it’s hard not to feel slightly vindicated by the current crop of accusations and recriminations carrying on in Zurich.
Self-regulation have always been the watch words when it comes to governance in sport, but perhaps the current situations shows that there is a space for legislators. I’m not suggesting that the EU or any other supra-national governing body get involved in the allocation of World Cups, that sounds like too much of a headache, but there may be a need a for more scrutiny and more legislation.
The Lisbon Treaty means that the EU now has greater competence in sport and the Commission has handed down its first communication on the subject. This communication looks at, among other things, doping, sports betting and player transfers. These are areas where the sports organisations have little ability or willingness to intervene. Sport affects the lives of so many across the EU, it is only right that we ensure that it’s held to the highest standards. Otherwise organisations such as FIFA, with their huge amounts of money and power, can end up bringing sport into disrepute.