The arrest of several FIFA officials in Zurich on corruption charges has fueled speculations that Russia and Qatar might be stripped of their rights to host 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Though FIFA president Sepp Blatter was not among those arrested, at least six senior executives of the world’s football governing body were arrested for “acceptable of bribes and kick-backs” worth about $100 million.
FIFA will not switch tournaments
The Russia and Qatar World Cups have been at the center of corruption charges right since they were awarded in December 2010. Meanwhile, the U.S. senators have been asking FIFA to remove Russia as the host of 2018 World Cup, largely due to its involvement in the Ukraine crisis and annexation of Crimea. The latest corruption charges and arrests “in connection with the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups” have strengthened those opposing Russia and Qatar’s bids.
However, FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio said at a press conference Wednesday morning that the 2018 and 2022 World Cups will still be played in Russia and Qatar. His statement suggests that the governing body will not switch tournaments despite today’s arrests on corruption charges. Last month, Sepp Blatter said after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin that “nothing will get in the way of Russia hosting the best ever World Cup.”
Bookmakers start issuing odds
Bookmakers have started issuing odds on which country might replace Russia or Qatar. Among bookies, England has emerged as a favorite for the 2018 World Cup should Russia lose hosting rights. In March, outgoing FIFA Executive Committee member Theo Zwanziger demanded that Qatar be stripped of its hosting rights. He said that the best solution was to “rectify this wrong awarding.”
Greg Dyke, chairman of The Football Association of England, said that the Qatar bid was “corrupt” and the bidding process should be revisited. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has already said that the tournaments will not change hands at any cost. Changing the venue of the tournaments will have huge implications as Russia and Qatar both have spent millions of dollars on planning, infrastructure, and stadiums.