If you award the World Cup to corrupt countries, you get corruption. What did FIFA expect?
Published in National Post | June 1, 2015 | by Jerry Amernic
Those who investigate corruption in the course of their work — police, lawyers, journalists — are probably not shocked with the news that nine senior officials of FIFA, the top governing body of the world’s most popular sport, face numerous charges involving bribery and kickbacks. We are hearing about secret bank accounts in Panama and the Cayman Islands, and $150 million paid out in bribes over the past 20 years. Last year the World Cup was held in Brazil. In 2010 it was in South Africa. The next one will be in Russia in 2018.
Transparency International is a non-profit organization with over 100 chapters around the globe, and it monitors corruption. It is dedicated to a world in which government, business “and the daily lives of people” are free of corruption. Every year it produces a Corruption Perceptions Index that measures the perceived levels of public-sector corruption. In the 2014 Index of 175 countries, not one country gets a perfect score and more than two-thirds score below 50 on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). So the higher the number, the better or cleaner you are perceived to be.
For the record, South Africa ranked #67 on the list with a score of 44, Brazil ranked #69 with a score of 43, and Russia ranked #136 with a score of 27.
According to the latest index, the number-one or cleanest country in the world is Denmark with a score of 92, followed closely by New Zealand at 91, and then rounding out the top ten in order — Finland, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and us. Canada. We are ranked number 10 with a score of 81, which means we slipped a notch. In the 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index Canada was tied for 9th place with Australia, and in the 2012 Index we were also tied for 9th, but this time with the Netherlands.
Has the FIFA World Cup ever been hosted by a top-10 country, as perceived by Transparency International? Yes. Twice. The 1954 World Cup was held in Switzerland and the very next one, in 1958, was held in Sweden. But with the 2022 World Cup already awarded to Qatar, we will have gone 64 years without a single FIFA World Cup going to a country perceived to be relatively clean of corruption.
The 1986 World Cup — where Diego Maradona scored his famous “Hand of God” goal and what is considered the best goal ever, both in a quarter-final match against England — was supposed to be held in Colombia. But that country cancelled and was replaced by Mexico. Let’s go back to the 2014 Corruption Perception Index. Colombia comes in at number 94 with a score of 37, while Mexico is even lower at number 103 with a score of 35.
The most recent rankings by Transparency International show the United Kingdom at number 14 with a score of 78, while the United States is tied at number 17 with Barbados, Hong Kong and Ireland. They all have a score of 74. China is number 100 with a score of 36, and at the very bottom of the list we have a two-way tie with North Korea and Somalia, both of which score an 8.
The average score overall is 43, which according to Transparency International is nothing to write home about. The organization also does a breakdown which sheds lights on the perceived level of corruption according to region.
The Americas — both North and South America — has an average of 45, and Canada is the highest-rated country for this part of the world with our 81, while at the bottom we have Haiti and Venezuela at 19. The other bottom feeders in the Americas are Paraguay, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guyana and Guatemala.
Here are the average scores for the rest of the world: EU and Western Europe — 66; Middle East and North Africa — 38; Sub-Saharan Africa — 33; Eastern Europe and Central Asia — 33; Asia Pacific — 43.
In the EU and Western Europe, the least corrupt country is the overall winner Denmark at 92, and the most corrupt is a three-way tie between Greece, Italy and Romania at 43. In the Middle East and North Africa the cleanest is the United Arab Emirates at 70, followed by Qatar at 69 and Israel at 60, and the most corrupt is Sudan at 11.
In Sub-Saharan Africa the best is Botswana at 63, and the most corrupt is Somalia at 8. For Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the top dog is Georgia with 52 and the most corrupt is Turkmenistan at 17. The other countries at the low end of the scale in this part of the world are the “stans” — Uzbekistan, Tajikstan, Kyrgyzstan — along with Russia and Ukraine.
Finally, for Asia Pacific, the results are New Zealand at the top with 91 and North Korea at the bottom.
José Ugaz is the chair of Transparency International. In the 2014 Corruptions Perceptions Index he says this: “Poorly equipped schools, counterfeit medicine and elections decided by money are just some of the consequences of public sector corruption. Bribes and backroom deals don’t just steal resources from the most vulnerable — they undermine justice and economic development, and destroy public trust in government and leaders.”
Ugaz also adds a poignant footnote: “Countries at the bottom need to adopt radical anti-corruption measures in favour of their people. Countries at the top of the index should make sure they don’t export corrupt practices to underdeveloped countries.”
It stands to reason that when an organization like FIFA awards the World Cup to a country low on the Corruption Perceptions Index — make no mistake, this is an event involving a lot of money — it’s asking for trouble. On the other hand, wouldn’t it be interesting to do an analysis of FIFA itself, not to mention the Olympics and even Major League Baseball for that matter, measuring the criteria used by Transparency International to see where they wind up on the corruption scale?
And while we’re at it, maybe the Canadian Senate, too.