The FIFA scandal, or what the IRS’s Richard Weber nauseatingly called “The World Cup of Fraud” just last week, started as a simple matter of “fat cat wasn’t paying his taxes.” The breadth and scope of the indictments against fourteen of the organization’s officials would likely never have come about if the IRS and, soon thereafter, the FBI hadn’t put the squeeze on Chuck Glazer, a tax evading soccer official eventually convinced to become their informant.
One can’t help but imagine Mr. Glazer is representative of the kind of people playing this bribery game. In considering the Qatar mess, and the $150 million in bribes and kickbacks greased out by the accused over the years, let it be said that these FIFA folks are some incredibly greedy people. Also: that no one might have even bothered if it wasn’t for Blazer’s refusal to just pay his taxes.
Of course, the scandal isn’t where dirty money in sports begins; it’s only where it has ended up. FIFA may be the greatest bribery champ there ever was, but there are plenty of dishonorable mentions worth noting along the way.
5. 2013 Indian Premier League Spot-Fixing ($540,000)
How does one fix a game that often goes on for too long, sometimes over several days, and that often enough ends in a draw and with everyone just way drunker? Spot-fixing, the fixing of a particular element of the game that doesn’t affect the final outcome of the game, seems the way to go in cricket.
In the biggest spot-fixing scandal on record, the Rajasthan Royals’ Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan were booked in 2013 after the Sreesanth and Chavan confessed that Chandila had tried to involve them in a scheme plotted out by several bookies. The Dehli police, it turns out, had been recording related phone calls, which eventually led to seventeen arrests, including the three players. Back to trying to break the draw, I guess.
4. 2002 Winter Olympics Scandal (Over $500,000)
On a more ridiculous note: the Olympics. The excessive wining-and-dining process the International Olympic Committee has encouraged and become accustomed to is now a well-worn cliché, but the practice reached a fever pitch with the 2002 scandal.
After Salt Lake City, Utah, failed to secure the Winter Games for 1932, 1972, 1976, 1992, and 1998, local officials kind of lost their collective minds. In efforts to successfully secure the 2002 Games, the Salt Lake City Olympic Bid Committee spent $16 million on their bid, including money spent entertaining over seventy IOC members in Salt Lake, but also offered: jobs at a local bank, tuition-free admission to local colleges, health care on the Committee dime and, on a more sentimental occasion, the gift of a really nice gun to then IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch.
Oddly enough, none of that flew under the radar. Committee members were forced to resign, several IOC members were expelled—a first in the IOC’s century-long history—and the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics enjoyed only passable good weather.
3. European football Match Fixing (£1.73 million recorded)
Another corruption front in the world of football? No one’s too surprised. But in all fairness any business worth £306 billion is going to be a hard one to refuse. And betting and fixing are, you know, fun.
With six English Premier League players arrested for match-fixing thus far, it’s been reported that as much as £1.73 million in bribes to European players and officials have been accounted for to date, involving as many as 308 confirmed match fixings. Of course, that’s just the ones that got caught.
2. Black Sox 1919 World Series (Around $1.4 million)
Alex Rodriguez, the MLB’s current higher earner, would have been appalled at league salaries in 1919. While the league leader, Ty Cobbs, made about 20,000$ per season (roughly $284,000 adjusted for inflation) at the time, Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey was a stingy kind of guy and offered his top players a mere $6,000 a piece (about $86,000 today). League rules then prevented baseball players from rejecting a contract, meaning they had to accept or be barred from playing for other teams. So what was a guy to do?
Nowhere near the deep mess of football, there’s something so naïve and heartening, by current corruption standards, about the 1919 White Sox. Infamously remembered as the Eight Men Out, eight players on the roster accepted payouts and conspired, along with several gambling syndicates around the country, to throw the Word Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Rumors of the fix were circulated and the spread, not too surprisingly, took a little too strong a note.
Was it worth it, though? Basically, no. Though acquitted in court, the eight were banned from League play for life. But they sure showed that cheapo Comiskey. Sort of…
1. Qatar World Cup (More millions than anyone can say, plus at least 1,200 lives so far)
The Qatar World Cup is a whole different kind of beast. With a projected cost likely to be many times that of any previous Cup, summer heat that has forced organizers to move the cup to November for the first time ever, an alcohol situation that will be tricky at best, and, most importantly, worker conditions and deaths already way worse than any previous World Cup, it’s safe to say the Qatar bid never should have won.
In light of the recent scandal, the question on everyone’s mind is: how much did the win cost? At this juncture, guesses are the best we’re going to get, but millions in bribes and kickbacks—and millions more than were handed out for South Africa, Brazil or any previous Cup—are all but definite. Something tells me we’ll all be taken aback by the number, maybe especially if it seems low. Whether it’ll be enough for a watershed moment is another matter altogether.