The Common Good

The World Cup, BBC, and Corruption

As an Australian with great love for my adopted home in London, I have been following with interest the bid by England to host the 2018 World Cup. In terms of global audience and the money generated, it is the world's biggest sporting competition.

The bid process is expensive. It is estimated that England spent $26 million in an effort to host it in 2018. In the end they received only 2 votes out of a possible 22 (Russia won). The decision caused much angst in the nation that invented the sport. What had gone wrong?

Some said the vote was a backlash against a BBC program, which exposed corruption in the way international football is run. The BBC revealed that three executives of football's governing body, FIFA, took bribes as part of a wider corruption scandal totaling around $100 million in secret payments. A fourth FIFA boss was accused of involvement in the corrupt sale of World Cup tickets.

All four voted in the World Cup bid for 2018.

You may not think corruption in sport is that important, but remember it was an American football college coach, Henry Russell Sanders, who famously said that football "is not a matter of life and death, it is more important than that."

The BBC program went to air just days before the vote was made and there were a number of voices in the UK that said the BBC was "unpatriotic" and should not have broadcast the documentary, or at least not at such a sensitive time. But others defended the right -- indeed the duty -- of the BBC, the nation's respected public broadcaster, to tell the truth about corruption in FIFA.

The editor of the program wrote, "If some of the people who are making the final decision are corrupt - if there is a suggestion that they can be bought - how fair can the process be? Given the long period over which this corruption took place and given that the men involved are all still in place, isn't it time that FIFA is properly held to account and its processes made transparent?"

I doubt that the BBC program was the reason why England lost its bid but even if it were, it's sport we're talking about, not life and death.

But the story illustrates the cost of speaking out and the huge cost of rampant corruption, not just in sport and not just in places that we easily think of as "corrupt."

Transparency International estimates that $1 trillion dollars is lost every year in the leakage and diversion of resources. But perhaps even worse is the fact that corruption destroys trust and affects vulnerable people the most.

We serve a God of integrity, truth, and goodness. Let's stand for those qualities. December 9 is Anti Corruption Day, a good time to speak out against greed and the misuse of power for personal gain, in all areas of life.

Amanda Jackson is head of campaigns and advocacy of Micah Challenge International. You can read a new report about governance and poverty from a Christian perspective and add your comments at the Micah Challenge website. The report, "Open For Service," is an appeal for transparency in government, business, and indeed the Christian church.

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