“The Ugly Game” and the Future of FIFA

 

On February 11, two weeks before the FIFA election to select Sepp Blatter’s successor, the Football Scholars Forum discussed The Ugly Game: The Corruption of FIFA and the Qatari Plot to Buy the World Cup by Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert.

Qatar’s successful 2022 World Cup bid and the role of the now-disgraced ex-FIFA ExCo member Mohamed Bin Hammam came under close scrutiny. The authors’ reliance on leaked FIFA electronic files called attention to the challenges and opportunities for scholars working with “big data.” There was discussion about discourses of Western bias and even racism against Africans and Asians (especially Arabs) that are sometimes perceived to be embedded in corruption allegations. Among the other topics tackled in the event was the intriguing question of whether there should be a universal standard of human rights required for nations to host the World Cup.

The session closed with important contributions related to the upcoming FIFA presidential ballot. Will Sheikh Salman or Gianni Infantino win? And what kinds of reforms might the new leadership deliver? What is the likelihood that any changes introduced will meaningfully transform the structure and governance of the much-maligned world body? In a climate plagued by corruption and cynicism, is there any hope for a better future?

An audio recording of the session is available here.

Participants: Alon Raab, Kevin Tallec Marston, Tarminder Grover, Andrew Guest, Chris Brown, David Kilpatrick, Simon Kuper, Alex Galarza, and Peter Alegi.

The next FSF session is scheduled for March 31 (2pm U.S. Eastern time). Chris Brown will pre-circulate a paper drawn from his ongoing doctoral research on football in Manaus, Brazil. To join the conversation, please email Alex Galarza (galarza DOT alex AT gmail) or Peter Alegi (alegi AT msu DOT edu).