How We Got Here: The Bidding Process and Allegations of Corruption

By: Michael McAloon
In Collaboration With: Nat Cooney and Yan Maceczek

The Bids  

In March 2009, five bids to host the 2018 World Cup were submitted to FIFA covering seven nations. The bids came from Belgium-Netherlands (joint bid), Portugal-Spain (joint bid), Mexico, Russia, and England. Mexico’s bid was promptly withdrawn in September of that year, with the country’s Football Federation claiming in a statement on its official website that the decision was “based on two premises: the global economic environment and the investment that would be required in infrastructure” that would prevent necessary funding at both the federal and local level.[1]

Coming from bastions of global football, the bids from Belgium-Netherlands, Portugal-Spain, and England looked to be the early favorites to win the rights to host the tournament. Spain, however, seemed to enjoy the greatest early advantage in the bidding process. After Spain’s World Cup triumph in 2010, then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter (everyone roll your eyes because you had to read his name) attended a celebration near Madrid. At the event attended by all of Spain’s footballing brass, Blatter declared his support for la selecciónfor the next four years” and presented plaques to Spanish Football Federation President Angel María Villar, manager Vincente Del Bosque, and captain Iker Casillas.[2] Across Europe, much was made of Blatter’s appearance. People wondered if it symbolized an endorsement of Spain and Portugal’s bid. His statement that “it would be an honor if Spain and Portugal hosted the World Cup” didn’t help the chatter much.[3] The confidence was resounding, and three days after Blatter’s visit, Villar said “we’re going to win” when asked about the bid in an interview with Spanish media.[4] Spain had momentum to give the joint bid a really good chance, and things looked promising on the Iberian Peninsula. Take a look at Spain-Portugal’s promotional bid video here:

Meanwhile, we take a jump across the Channel to England, which thought it had it all. The infrastructure the country provided–largely due to massive Premier League Stadiums and the transportation systems that connected them–was judged to be without a doubt the best any bidding country had to offer.[5] Importantly, England had the history and the prestige to host the tournament.[6] The birthplace of the modern game and a symbol of footballing power today, it seemed almost too good of an option. The bid’s ambassadors, highlighted by the likes of David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Alan Shearer, and David Cameron were nearly irresistible. By 2018, fifty years would have passed since the World Cup came to England’s shores in 1966. It seemed about time for football to return home. Take a look at England’s promotional bid video here:

Zig-zagging back across the channel, the Netherlands and Belgium looked to be a long shot to host the tournament. While there seemed to be a number of positive aspects to the bid, such as the fact that passion for the game in that region of the world is undeniable and the limited size of the Low Countries would reduce travel times. The countries’ accessibility in the center of Europe, modern infrastructure, and multilingual populations also made the bid attractive. There was, however, a large amount of work that would have needed to be done to expand facilities to meet FIFA’s stadium capacity requirements.[7] Moreover, the two countries faced severe domestic political skepticism, as many feared the large economic cost associated with hosting the tournament. Take a look at Belgium-Netherlands’ promotional bid video here:

Finally, we move seemingly halfway around the world to the Netherlands of world football: Russia. Russia’s hosting concept proposed to maximize exposure to the country for visitors and facilitate participation in the World Cup for as many regions as possible through a geographic clustering of the candidate host cities. Russia seemed to face an uphill battle compared to the other potential hosts, as none of its proposed sixteen stadiums were ready at the time the bid was placed–with three needing renovation and thirteen yet to be constructed. Moreover, each host city, FIFA asserted, would require significant investment in the “modernization of its hotel sector,” before the country could host thousands of visitors from around the world.[8] The country’s vastness and remoteness from other countries posed another challenge in terms of transportation and logistics. At the time of the bid, it was estimated that the country’s limited high-speed rail network would only connect six host cities by 2018. This, FIFA postulated, would put pressure on Russia’s air traffic infrastructure and cause “transfer challenges in view of the lack of alternative means of long-distance transport.”[9] As a result, Russia needed major upgrades and capacity increases to the majority of its airports. Finally, Russia’s horrible human rights record, specifically when it comes to the government’s treatment of the LGBT community, made the country seem a risky choice.[10] Compared to the other potential hosts, Russia was the underdog. Take a look at a few of Russia’s promotional bid videos here:

The Vote

After a year of inspections, heated debates, political maneuvering, and reviews, the FIFA Executive Committee met in Zurich on December 2nd, 2010 to vote on the host for the 2018 World Cup. Normally comprised of 24 men, the Committee was down to 22 after Nigeria’s Amos Adamu and French Polynesia’s Reynald Temarii were barred from voting due to a bribery scandal.[11] Why someone from French Polynesia was on FIFA’s Executive Committee to begin with beats me, but that’s FIFA for you. We’ll revisit this scandal later.

Those present for the vote included:

Sepp Blatter (Switzerland): President

Julio Grondona (Argentina): Senior Vice President | President, Argentine Football Association

Issa Hayatou (Cameroon): Vice President | CAF President

Mong Joon Chung (Korea Republic): Vice President | Korean MP

Jack Warner (Trinidad and Tobago): Vice President | CONCACAF President

Angel Maria Villar Llona (Spain): Vice President | President, Spanish Football Federation

Michel Platini (France): Vice President | UEFA President

Geoff Thompson (England): Vice President | Chairman, Football Association (1999-2008)

Michel D’Hooghe (Belgium): Member | Chairman, FIFA Medical Committee | President, FC Brugge

Ricardo Terra Texeira (Brazil): Member | President, Brazilian Football Confederation

Mohammed Bin Hammam (Qatar): Member | President, Asian Football Confederation

Senes Erik (Turkey): Member | Turkish FA President

Chuck Blazer (USA): Member | General Secretary, CONCACAF

Worawi Makudi (Thailand): Member | President, Thailand Football Association

Nicolas Leoz (Paraguay): Member | President, CONMEBOL

Junji Ogura (Japan): Member | Vice President, Japanese Football Association

Marios Lefkaritis (Cyprus): Member | Honorary President, Cyprus Football Association

Jacques Anouma (Ivory Coast): Member | Chairman, Ivory Coast Football Federation

Franz Beckenbauer (Germany): Member | World Cup Winner as a Player (1974) and Manager (1990)

Rafael Salguero (Guatemala): Member | Former Chairman, Guatemalan Football Association

Hany Abo Rida (Egypt): Member

Vitaly Mutko (Russia): Member | Former President, Russian Football Union [12]

Within five years of the vote, only seven of these men remained on the Executive Committee. Of the other fifteen, eleven were suspended, banned, fined, investigated, indicted, or lost their seats due to widespread allegations of corruption and bribery.[13] Truly an upstanding group of gentlemen, no?

Voting procedures outline that each member of the Executive Committee have one vote and that they vote by secret ballot. Voting proceeds by rounds, and the candidate country that receives the fewest votes in each round was eliminated until a single candidate was chosen by the majority. In the event of a tie, President Sepp Blatter would have the deciding vote.

In the first round, Russia led the voting with 9 votes, followed by Spain/Portugal (7), Netherlands/Belgium (4), and England (2). Shockingly, the Brits were sent home and Russia seemed to be in the drivers seat. In the second round, Russia got the majority it needed, with 13 of the 22 votes, followed again by Spain/Portugal (7), and Netherlands/Belgium (2). So, against all odds, the 2018 World Cup would take place in Russia.

Here is a visual breakdown of the vote:

Something Doesn’t Add Up

Russia? Really?

How was Russia able to capture 13 of the 22 votes necessary to achieve an absolute majority in only the second round of voting? How could a nation that had yet to build 13 of the 16 required stadiums be deemed ready to host the world’s most important sporting event? Were rampant corruption and match-fixing in Russia’s domestic league not enough of a blight on the sport? Why should the eyes of billions be trained on a country with such a shoddy human rights record?

There hasn’t been much information divulged on what happened in the buildup to the vote, but much has been made about possible foul play by Russia’s bid committee. In October 2010, the Sunday Times published an investigation into alleged vote-buying, accusing aforementioned FIFA executive Amos Adamu of telling an undercover reporter that the Russians had offered him “cooperation” with building facilities and training players in Nigeria in turn for his vote. The head of the Russian bid, Alexei Sorokin, rebutted the claims and asserted the newspaper deliberately looked to damage Russia’s reputation in an attempt to bolster England’s chances. While he confirmed that Adamu had visited Moscow in August, he insisted that “[Adamu] was never approached with any offers of assistance in pitch construction or players’ training or any other partnership.” Such accusations, he claimed, were “speculation and unfounded.” [14] Sepp Blatter chimed in on the whole ordeal, furious with The Guardian for “setting a trap” for Adamu. While that basically says it all about Blatter, I add that his defense that the media should engage in more “fair play” is pretty laughable.

In 2015, Blatter claimed that Russia was chosen as the World Cup host before voting had even taken place. Specifically, he claimed, “In 2010, we had a discussion of the World Cup and then we went to a double decision.” The “double decision” was that “for the World Cups it was agreed that we go to Russia because it’s never been in Russia, Eastern Europe, and for 2022 we go back to America and so we will have the World Cup in the two biggest political powers.”[15] While later shady negotiations resulted in the 2022 World Cup going to Qatar instead of the US (hopefully the this is written about in the World Cup 2022 blog four years from now), the Russia choice stayed the same. Take from this what you may, but the fact that the decision was made behind closed doors before the vote by “secret ballot” even took place seems to indicate that this was about something more than giving Russia the World Cup because “it’s never been in Russia.” At the very least, it means that countries like England, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands might never have had a chance from the outset. Recently, officials from these countries have called for

Across the world, many have cried foul play. Just this past week, former British Prime Minister David Cameron implied that Russia won the World Cup bidding process by corrupt means. While speaking to the Chatham House foreign affairs think tank, he claimed that England’s bid was hindered by dishonest Russian politics. “We wanted to lead the world In great sporting events that bring people together,” he said, “Yet how did Russia end up winning the bid for the 2018 World Cup? I will let you fill in the blanks on that one.” [16]

The FIFA Corruption Report 

In July 2017, FIFA published an investigative report detailing alleged corruption in Russia and Qatar’s World Cup bids. The Russia bid committee, backed by Vladimir Putin, gave limited cooperation to investigator Michael Garcia’s team, who found no evidence of undue influence even though Putin met with 6 of the 22 members of the Executive Committee before the vote December 2010 vote took place.[17]

Garcia’s team lacked the evidence-gathering powers of a criminal probe, but did find that leased computers used by Russia’s bid campaign were later destroyed. (Sure, nothing to see here.) Moreover, the investigation never gained access to bid staffers’ Gmail accounts, which severely hampered their efforts. Somehow, though, Russia was cleared of any wrongdoing.[18]

I guess we may never know what exactly happened in the buildup to the vote, but something was definitely amiss!

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


How to cite this page:

“How We Got Here: The Bidding Process and Allegations of Corruption,” Written by Michael McAloon (2018). Men’s World Cup 2018 Guide, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University,


[1] “Mexico Withdraws Bid to Host 2018 and 2022 World Cups.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 29 Sept. 2009,

[2] Lowe, Sid. “World Cup 2018: Confidence Grows around Spain and Portugal’s Bid.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 25 Nov. 2010,

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid.

[5] Yallop, David. “England World Cup Bid: How Did We Get It so Wrong?” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 4 Dec. 2010,

[6] ibid.

[7] “World Cup 2018: Holland-Belgium Bid Takes a Nosedive.” RNW Media, 2010,

[8] 2018 Fifa World Cup Bid Evaluation Report: Russia. FIFA Evaluation Group , 2010,

[9] ibid.

[10] “Russia: Anti-Gay Purge in Chechnya.” Human Rights Watch, 9 Feb. 2018,

[11] Hills, David. “Russia’s 2018 World Cup Bid Attacks New ‘Bribery’ Allegations.” The Observer, Guardian News and Media, 30 Oct. 2010,

[12] Keogh, Frank. “The World Cup in Their Hands: Who Are the Fifa 22?” BBC News, BBC, 2 Dec. 2010,

[13] Ziegler, Martyn. “Of the 22 Members of the FIFA Executive Committee Who Awarded the World Cup to Russia and Qatar Only Seven Remain… so What Happened to the Other 15.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 2 Dec. 2015,

[14] Hills, “Russia’s 2018 World Cup Bid”

[15] Riach, James. “Sepp Blatter: Russia Was Chosen as 2018 World Cup Host before Vote.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 28 Oct. 2015,

[16] “Russia Won Bid to Host 2018 World Cup by Corruption, Says David Cameron.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 17 Apr. 2018,

[17] “FIFA Releases Report Detailing Alleged Corruption in World Cup Bids of Russia and Qatar.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 27 June 2017,

[18] ibid.