The recent round of FIFA corruption allegations may not seem any different from the last round of FIFA corruption allegations.
However they may well be and this is why. Previous allegations have centered around the behaviour of the bribed, around the FIFA delegates themselves.
The evidence given to a House of Commons parliamentary committee earlier this week goes further. It accuses Qatar of paying them.
Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins said the Sunday Times newspaper had directly accused two FIFA delegates of taking the bribes from Qatar.
The two accused are Confederation of African Football (CAF) President Issa Hayatou and executive committee member Jacques Anouma, and they are accused of accepting a sum in the region of $1.5m.
The Sunday Times also claimed another delegate Amos Adamu had been bribed, but by the time the vote came round, he was already suspended from voting because of previous allegations.
The allegations made to the British parliamentary committee centre around an Egyptian go-between called Amadou Diallo and FIFA Secretary General Michel Zen Ruffinen.
According to the BBC, they were told that
“Zen Ruffinen claimed that Qatar was using Diallo to arrange financial deals with the African members in exchange for World Cup votes.
Further inquiries established that Diallo had been employed by the Qatar bid and was also the “charge de mission” (chief assistant) to Issa Hayatou.”
Current FIFA President Sepp Blatter has said he will investigate it.
Doubtless that will also incur some level of cynicism. But what if he does and the information is incontrovertible?
What if Qatar secured its World Cup through bribery?
Normally in a legal system, bribery incurs criminal penalties and any contract won through it can be considered void. One can easily see other bidders who did not attempt to bribe voters crying foul.
The United States finished second in the voting to host the 2022 World Cup and would be a likely candidate should the voting have to be rerun.
The football world is entering uncharted territory here.
The international shame of changing venue may be too much for FIFA to bear and they may decide to plough forward with their choice despite all the other problems that have arisen with Qatar.
Subsequent to the vote, it became more obvious that they wanted to move the World Cup to January to avoid the worst of the desert heat. There are still substantial human rights issues to be resolved about the treatment of women in that part of the World, especially given the ludicrous suggestion that they may need to base some fans in a Saudi Arabia where women have very few rights at all.
The recent revelations that two Swiss journalists were detained without charge for 13 days in Qatar has raised further questions about the freedom of the press there.
Defenders of Qatar can say that the cup is eleven years away and that gives the nation plenty of time to make the necessary arrangements to guarantee equal treatment for fans. The argument works the other way though. It gives eleven years to find somewhere else.
The United States could probably host a World Cup with a fraction of that notice. So could England. There is a precedent for this. Mexico stepped in late for 1986 after Colombia had initially been awarded the Finals.
However should FIFA’s single mindedness to proceed with Qatar regardless of the methods they used to win the votes not deter them, then there is a semi serious prospect of a legal challenge.
There is an international sport court but it is primarily used for arbitration, the Lausanne based Court of Arbitration for Sport. Amos Adamu has already lodged an appeal to it to lift his suspension.
It seems to have the power to lift that suspension but as with all arbitration, both parties have to have given it some authority beforehand.
The court’s own rules say:
“The disputes to which a federation, association or other sports-related body is party are a matter for arbitration in the sense of this Code, only insofar as the statutes or regulations of the said sports-related bodies or a specific agreement so provide.”
So FIFA would have had to already have given the CAS the authority, or be prepared to cede it, to rule on such matters otherwise they have no legal authority.
The Swiss Courts therefore seem the likeliest venue.
Whether they would have the legal power to rule the decision invalid is an imponderable at the moment. But they could be asked.
Were they to rule that the decision taken on Swiss soil was illegal and not binding, then there is no precedent for what would unfurl.