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A Red Card for Qatar?

Published onJul 29, 2014
A Red Card for Qatar?

Every four years the entire globe follows each pass, foul, goal, and even hairstyles of the phenomenon known as the FIFA World Cup.  While fans continue to flock to stadiums and remain glued to their televisions, a small Arabian country has stolen the limelight of this World Cup without stepping a foot in Brazil.

Qatar has been selected to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.  Many are wondering, how was a “high risk” desert country, with no infrastructure for the massive crowds, and no history in international soccer able to win the bid from the likes of the United States, Australia, Japan, and South Korea?  A recent article by the British newspaper, The Sunday Times, reports that the answer is bribery. The report alleges that at the time of the vote in 2010, a Qatari official paid more than $5 million to various members of the selection committee in order to award Qatar the World Cup.  If the allegations prove to be true, FIFA would strongly consider stripping Qatar of the 2022 World Cup.  Such a decision would be devastating, as Qatar has already spent $200 billion making preparations for the World Cup.  However, could Qatar challenge a ruling that would strip them of their right to host the World Cup? 

In short, the answer is no.  The Qatari government is preparing a legal team to challenge a potential adverse decision by FIFA, citing that such a decision would be grossly unfair considering the billions of dollars the country has expended planning for the World Cup.  However, this defense is unlikely to strike the sympathy chord in the court of FIFA.  Qatar agreed to sign away its right for any legal action against FIFA when it made its bid for the World Cup in 2010.   All of the bidding countries signed a legal document that required them to uphold FIFA’s Code of Ethics, which strictly forbids bribery.  A Swiss based organization such as FIFA may seem as though it is subject to Swiss courts and the corresponding laws.  But, FIFA’s code makes it clear that any member that challenges a decision can only have their grievances heard by the appeals committee of FIFA’s ethics committee.  Any further appeals could only be made before an arbitrator on the quasi-judicial body known as the Court of Arbitration in Sport.

Flickr | Billboard touting Qatar as a 2022 FIFA World Cup bidding nation.

Qatar, like all of the other hopeful bidders, knew what legal rights it was signing away in 2010.  Most country officials never think twice about their signatures, as they are eager to land what is arguably the greatest sporting event in the world.  Then again, no one expected that FIFA, an organization plagued with bribery scandals, would actually consider stripping someone of the World Cup.

Ultimately, if FIFA officials decide there is enough evidence to show that bribery occurred then Qatar would almost certainly receive a red card and be sent off to the stands to watch the World Cup from a far worse position then they have at the moment.  Alternatively, FIFA officials could determine that the evidence before them is not enough for an immediate send off, and may decide to give Qatar a yellow card, or some form of less severe punishment in hopes of warning others who might consider bribing their way to the top.  With all the uncertainty surrounding Qatar’s quest to host the World Cup, one thing remains certain – the 2022 rendition will undoubtedly be a grand spectacle (in more ways than one).


Afzal Karim is a second year law student at Wake Forest University School of Law.  He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science and African American Studies from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Upon graduation, he intends to practice commercial transactional law.   

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