FIFA, the world football governing body, has admitted to widespread corruption during the 2019 World Cup in Russia, but is struggling to contain its financial woes and faces an unprecedented backlash from the public.
The revelations were made by the country’s most prominent human rights lawyer, Maria Saldanha, who alleges that more than half the players on the 2018 World Cup roster were paid bribes.
The scandal has rocked FIFA’s image and tarnished its reputation, with President Sepp Blatter and the International Olympic Committee calling for a new ethics committee to investigate the scandal.
Ahead of the 2020 World Cup, Blatter announced a raft of measures to combat corruption in the sport, including a ban on all players participating in “political or social events” at World Cups, a ban of FIFA members from politics for the first time, and more than 50% of all World Cup contracts being signed by players.
Blatter has called for the country to be “cleansed of the worst elements,” including bribery and the abuse of “privileged positions.”
Saldana, the head of the World Cup organizing committee, told reporters on Tuesday that the organization has launched a major investigation into corruption in football, including the corruption of the 2018 tournament and the 2018 Confederations Cup.
The probe will involve a number of investigative agencies, including FIFA’s criminal investigative arm, and will look into allegations of bribery, “the abuse of privileged positions,” and “the systematic and systematic violation of the rights of all participants,” she said.
Saldanyas report, which was obtained by The Guardian and confirmed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), paints a damning picture of the alleged corruption at the 2018 and 2020 World Cups.
“The 2018 and 2018 Confederates Cup were rigged in a way that was totally different from the way it had been previously reported,” Saldannas report said.
“All the players who participated in those tournaments, not just the top players, were receiving a fair and honest pay.”
The 2018 World Championship, held in Russia from June 14 to 20, was reportedly won by Argentina, which received a $1.3 million payment from a Russian bank.
It was a major coup for the Russian Football Union (RFU), which had long maintained that the tournament was not sanctioned by the RFU.
The 2018 tournament was the last major event in the country, which has a population of just over 6 million people.
The next World Cup will take place in Qatar from 2022.
The 2022 World Cup was not even awarded until late last year, and the 2022 tournament has been marred by corruption scandals that have claimed more than $1 billion, according to Saldanas report.
In addition to the 2018 scandal, the 2022 World Championships also involved the alleged theft of millions of dollars of funds, which led to FIFA to impose sanctions on some of the players.
At the time, Blat told reporters that FIFA would look into the allegations and “reconsider its decision in light of the current international situation.”
The 2022 and 2022 Confederations Cups are being investigated by the IAAF.
Blat’s comments followed the revelation that former FIFA vice president Jack Warner had been found guilty of wire fraud, embezzlement, and money laundering.
Warner, who was replaced by Blatter as the head a year ago, was also implicated in the 2018 FIFA scandal, and his conviction could mean that he would face more punishment.
Blatt has vowed to put an end to corruption, and in his resignation speech he also promised a new Ethics Committee to probe the 2018, 2022, and 2022 World Cups and other “unacceptable” FIFA activities.
“It is important to note that the new Ethics Commission, to be established by the FIFA Council in March 2019, will have the full support of the Executive Committee and all the stakeholders, including our members,” Blatt said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Our members have been demanding accountability and transparency for decades, and it is my sincere hope that we can find a way to resolve these issues with a clear conscience.”