World Cup Highlights the Importance of Tackling Corruption

Allegations that payoffs were made to secure Qatar's successful bid for the 2022 World Cup games and reports of fixed soccer matches ahead of the 2010 World Cup illustrate the pervasiveness of global corruption and its potential consequences.

Football — known as soccer in the U.S. — is extremely popular around the world and generates over $1 billion a year for FIFA, international football's ruling body, and millions of dollars for its sponsors. The sport also attracts a significant number of gamblers, who place large bets in a multi-billion dollar underground-betting market in Asia.

Thus, financially shaky national football federations that are not well managed and politically divided present prime targets for criminal groups seeking to fix games. Deliberately missing shots, preferential calls by referees and even team officials telling their players outright to lose a match can generate huge wins in the gambling market.

FIFA is facing heightened scrutiny amid reports of collaboration between some football associations and criminal gangs to rig scores in the 2010 World Cup and other international games. FIFA also faces allegations of bribery in its decisions to hold the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and Russia in 2018.

Some European football leaders have called on the FIFA president to resign. And key World Cup corporate sponsors — who generally refrain from speaking out on such sensitive issues — have broken with protocol and publicly demanded that FIFA get to the bottom of the corruption claims.

While FIFA has launched its own investigations, the negative publicity surrounding the organization at the moment is certainly not good for FIFA, football or its sponsors. It also exposes the governing body’s serious problems in policing itself and its member federations, including the need for improved anti-corruption policies and procedures.

FIFA's troubles are indicative of the significant strides made in international anti-corruption enforcement efforts. In addition to regulators, others in the international community are turning up the pressure on companies to take bribery seriously by creating very real consequences for engaging in both foreign and domestic bribery.

Companies need to be aware of this enforcement environment and review the effectiveness of their organization’s anti-corruption and anti-bribery policies.  

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