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Wed 3 Jun 2015 07:19 PM

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How do you cancel a football World Cup tournament?

FIFA scandal has prompted calls a re-examination of the World Cup awards to Qatar and Russia

How do you cancel a football World Cup tournament?

It has never been done before and no defined procedure for doing it exists but, in theory, withdrawing the right to host a World Cup from a host nation should be an easy thing to do.

Football has been in turmoil since a series of arrests last week of officials from the world governing body FIFA on U.S. Department of Justice allegations of bribery.

Swiss prosecutors have also announced their own criminal investigation into the award of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

The scandal has prompted calls for FIFA to re-examine the awards - something that Qatar and Russia have firmly resisted.

The only other occasion on which a men's World Cup was moved was when Colombia opted out of hosting the 1986 tournament but in that case, it withdrew citing economic problems.

"We're in uncharted waters," said one former senior FIFA official.

But the former official said it was possible for a country to lose the right to host the tournament.

According to Article 85 of FIFA's statutes, which deals with "unforeseen circumstances and force majeure", the organization's Executive Committee has the "final decision on any matters not provided for in these Statutes".

Any wrongdoing around the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups - which Russia and Qatar deny - could be seen as "unforeseen circumstances" warranting a rethink, the former official said.

The 25-member Executive Committee usually makes decisions on the basis of a simple majority.

There is some precedent. In May 2003, the Executive Committee opted to move the Women's World Cup from China, due to an outbreak of the SARS virus.

While this decision came within weeks of China saying it was ready and willing to host the games, the context of health risks and the fact FIFA agreed to allow China host the 2007 games in return for the move, mean this experience is not seen as comparable to the current situation.

FIFA rules also allow members - the 209 national football associations which are its members - to introduce motions for the body to vote on.

This right could be used by a member to propose FIFA taking back one or both World Cups.

This has never happened before so it is unclear how a vote would be structured. On most issues, FIFA works on the basis of a majority of voting members backing a motion.

However, the bar for a vote to withdraw a tournament could be higher if votes on the expulsion or suspension of members were taken as a guide.

The decision on whether to hold a vote on suspending or expelling a member from FIFA requires a three-quarters majority of the valid votes cast, the statutes say.

Only two opportunities will arise in the next year to introduce such motions - at the "extraordinary elective Congress" due to take place between December this year and March next year or at the ordinary annual FIFA Congress which will take place in May 2016.

Sports executives and officials said it would be politically difficult to push through a vote on removing the tournament either at the executive committee or Congress, especially if no definitive proof of wrongdoing was produced.

In the case of Qatar, removing the tournament would likely be seen as a political snub to the Arab world, while Russia, already at odds with the West over Ukraine, would see it as a diplomatically hostile move.

While billions of dollars of contracts have already been agreed in relation to the tournaments, this may not be a major bar to relocating the games.

An official at one television group with rights to both tournaments said they expected to have the rights irrespective of where the matches were held. The shift in the 2003 women's World Cup did not nullify all the TV contracts that had been signed.

Andrew Woodward, a consultant who previously led sports sponsorship for Visa said groups which had signed sponsorship deals would also likely be untroubled by a move.

"They don't care where the tournaments are held. Sponsors do 95 percent of the exploitation of their sponsorship in the year leading up to a World Cup," he said.

Some companies have contracts which are more location specific. British-based Byrom Plc has contracts to provide accommodation services to FIFA at the 2018 World Cup via its Swiss-based subsidiary Match. It said that if the tournament were cancelled in Russia, it would not seek compensation.

FIFA has certain agreements directly with the host nations but Woodward said it was possible such contracts could be voided if wrongdoing in the bidding process was established.

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Anonymous 4 years ago

President Obama's personal desire to go after Putin is obvious...

Qatar is "collateral damage", though many in other countries around the world would like to see the Qatar award invalidated, revoked.

For the purposes of fostering global peace and international goodwill, even if corruption charges are formally filed regarding the World Cup awards to Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022), both awards should stand. The governments and PEOPLE of both countries have already invested tremendously ~ time, money, labor and hard work, planning, hopes and aspirations...And yes, the respect of human rights for migrant workers, or any other workers, on any World Cup site should be protected; FIFA should work together closely with Russia and Qatar in order to make sure that such is the case (including making sure that any violations in respect of such matters are brought to justice, either before the courts or by means of arbitration, in the country concerned). In my humble opinion...

One World 4 years ago

FIFA has been corrupt for decades, why didnt the West (and its always the West), bring up these issues when they were bidding for the 2018, 2022 finals.

They are only complaining because they lost.

Hopefully the rest of the world will learn from this.

Mick 4 years ago

Yeah, and it's always the west that takes the initiative when everyone else spectates while sitting on their hands, too lazy to take action. On just about everything. Then the world complains about them until they need something.

Klay 4 years ago

One World, being in the UK I'm surprised you have completely overlooked Andrew Jennings and the Panorama team. They raised the issue of corruption before and during the bid process. Aren't they based in the 'West'? Or do they not count?

Victory Heights 4 years ago

The World Cup award will never be revoked by FIFA purely because of the legal aspects & potential compensation they would have to pay.

FIFA apparently have $2bn in the bank but this is small in terms of the amount of money Qatar has thrown at the infrastructure already.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be played in Qatar, end of......

Mark Renton 4 years ago

@VH a compensation award would only be a concern for FIFA if it thought it would lose a court case on the matter. I would guess that the World Cup award would be governed by Swiss law, it certainly won't be the Qatari courts that have jurisdiction. If it transpires that the bidding process has been materially affected by corruption then the amount spent on infrastructure in Qatar will be irrelevant. On the other hand if the evidence shows that Qatar would have won anyway then it will stay there.

procan 3 years ago

never say never!