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SUPRIYA BAKHT
SPORTING CHIC

Supriya Bakht is an incessant talker with a shoe addiction. She's usually found ranting and raving about politics, football and Arsenal; but mostly about Arsenal.

As the bucks get bigger, FIFA must clean its stables

hile the world may be shocked by allegations of bribery and corruption within FIFA, we in India remain unsurprised. The alleged wheeling, dealing and exchanging of favours within football's premier organisation has been an inherent part of India's polity and life for decades. Except in India, it's routinely a question of successful coalitions bids to form governments. In any case, if the murky reality of the Commonwealth Games is anything to go by, this is a malady that is already affecting sport in India.

What is truly surprising is why the international sports community is this shocked by the most recent allegations of impropriety. Given the debate that followed the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002, the International Olympic Committee was forced to introspect and amend their voting and bid processes to ensure greater transparency and clarity within the organisation. It has long been suspected that all was not kosher at FIFA and now it is clear that significant changes are needed if FIFA is to restore confidence. Accusations of underhand dealings were levelled against FIFA even before votes were cast for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting rights. These have only increased in light of revelations earlier this week as FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer and Lord Triesman, an English Member of Parliament, blew the whistle on what they call gross malpractices within the voting process. If proved true, FIFA vice president Jack Warner and Asian football chief Mohammed Bin Hammam, along with four members of the committee, will be guilty of bribery, corruption and exchanging favours for bid votes. The maths is simple – no fewer than eight executive committee members, a third of the twenty four members, have either been found guilty or alleged to have been involved in some form of impropriety in relation to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids. Sounds just like some of our political parties, doesn't it? The only difference is that they trade votes for lucrative broadcasting and TV rights as in the case of Warner and committee member Worawi Mukudi from Thailand, or promises of positions of power and 'what can you do for me' open ended demands from members like Brazil's Ricardo Teixera.

ast year, the FIFA Ethics Committee suspended and subsequently banned two members of their ExCom following a Sunday Times investigation into the World Cup bidding after England lost out to Russia on their impressive bid for the 2018 World Cup. Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 ahead of the United States and Australia. It really cannot be a simple coincidence that the first ever successful bid from the Middle East just happened to come at a time when the head of the Asian Football Federation is Bin Hammam, a Qatari who will be opposing current president Sepp Blatter in the FIFA Presidential elections scheduled for June 1. Neither does it make sense that England, with London appointed as the host city for the 2011 Champions League final, would receive a mere two votes, ahead of Russia, who have a long way to go to improve infrastructure and security to host the 2018 World Cup. Irrespective of the conclusion that the investigation reaches, the unprecedented inclusion of their longstanding president Sepp Blatter within the ambit of the investigation has severely damaged FIFA's reputation. Without substantial and significant reforms, FIFA will is sure to lose its credibility as an international organisation, and instead be viewed as a body that operates at the behest of a few individuals and for the benefit of a few countries.

The reality of commercialising sport invariably leads to conflict amongst those who are purists, those who advocate a corporate approach to managing sport and those with an aim to develop sport in lesser-developed countries. Striking a balance is evidently a difficult task when managing the expectations of regional sports authorities, the furtherance of the sport and sponsors with extremely deep pockets. With the volumes of money involved in sports management, scandals come as no surprise. As the world of sports emerges as one of the fastest growing industries in the world, it is imperative that stakeholders strive to maintain its sanctity.

 
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