Corruption and Politics at the 2018 World Cup: Russia Under the Spotlight

by Jan Maceczek, Michael McAloon, and Nathaniel Cooney

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A Primer: Russia’s Bid for the World Cup

In a process that featured a bid from football’s home country, England, and joint bids from bastions of the beautiful game such as Netherlands/Belgium and Spain/Portugal, it was Russia who somehow came out on top. Was it a miracle? Was it a sign of Russia’s strength and growth on the world stage? Was it something more sinister? Click here for a primer on the 2018 World Cup bidding process and the actors, events, politics, and corruption that brought us to where we are today.

Picking Up From Sochi 2014

Just four years ago, Russia hosted the Winter Olympics in Sochi, the most expensive Olympics in history. There were many controversies, including disputes with Circassians, environmental and economic issues, and the safety and human rights of the LGBT community in light of Russia’s “gay propaganda” laws. Furthermore, a massive state-sponsored doping program was uncovered after the games. Still, these controversies have largely lost public attention as new events take place and prior tournament concerns are forgotten.

Eyes Back on Russia: From Excitement to Ennui 

Russia’s pitch for the World Cup was presented as an opportunity for the country to showcase its progression since the collapse of the Soviet Union, highlighting a diversifying economy, growing infrastructure, and celebrated culture. However, this World Cup will be taking place in the backdrop of growing international tensions, and continuing controversies around human rights in Russia. To this end, hosting the world’s most popular sporting event entails serious risks for the Russian government.

World Cup Meltdown: A Look into the Fraud, Corruption, and Economic Strife Surrounding Russia’s Infrastructure Projects

Russia’s World Cup bid proposal argued that hosting the tournament would be a net positive for the country in the long-term, as infrastructure projects had the potential to spark the Russian economy and leave a lasting impact on regional development. Here, we delve deeper into these claims to investigate the dark side of the beautiful game, investigating issues of fraud, corruption, abuse and economic strife surrounding the tournament’s essential infrastructure projects. Maybe hosting the World Cup isn’t all its cracked up to be.

Sponsorship and the Looming Crisis for FIFA

In this part of the spotlight, we focus on FIFA’s struggles to maintain and gain new sponsors for the World Cup since the FIFA corruption scandal. Additionally, we examine how Russia and Qatar’s political actions have increased this issue, and given FIFA a bleaker future. FIFA values its sponsors dearly, but corruption within the organization itself and the hosts it has chosen has greatly damaged this relationship.

An Opportunity for Russia on the Global Stage

Russia is trying to utilize this World Cup as an opportunity to improve its image internationally, and our research does not look positive for their chances of success. In the end however, if Russia can manage to avoid the human rights debacles of the past and can mange to control their now infamous “hooligans,” there is hope that Russia can utilize this World Cup as an opportunity to change how they are viewed by the world.