FIFA may not be able to change the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups even if they want to

In the wake of an alleged $US150 million bribery and corruption scandal involving FIFA, many people in the soccer world are calling for re-votes or overall cancellations of the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Despite claims of corruption within FIFA, legal roadblocks could make it very difficult for FIFA to simply take the World Cups away from Russia and Qatar.

As Andre Mayer of CBC News writes, regardless of how Russia and Qatar were awarded their respective World Cups — something the US Department of Justice is looking into, along with the votes behind the 2010 and 2014 World Cups — they still won the bidding process. That means those countries would have agreed to legally binding contracts with FIFA over hosting terms.

If FIFA were to breach these contracts, FIFA and the host country would face a hearing in front of the Court for the Arbitration of Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland. Mayer states the Court of the Arbitration of Sport works under Swiss law but “but regularly adjudicates commercial disputes between sports organisations from different countries.”

According to Mayer, unlike Olympic contracts with host nations, the World Cup contracts aren’t made public, so the exact terms aren’t known.

FIFA official Domenico Scala recently said FIFA would look into stripping Russia and Qatar of the World Cups if there’s proof that there were bribes to vote for either country, stating, “Should evidence be present that the awarding to Qatar and Russia only came about with bought votes, then the awarding could be void.”

However, shortly after, FIFA released a statement countering Scala, saying, “Russia and Qatar were awarded the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups by democratic vote of the Executive Committee. Based on expert opinions and available facts, FIFA has no legal grounds to take away the hosting of the FIFA World Cup from Russia and Qatar.”

Additionally, the inherent problem with cancelling these events is the sheer number of resources both Russia and Qatar have committed to making the events happen. Russia is reportedly spending $US20 billion to prepare for the event, while Qatar is reportedly spending $US200 billion on infrastructure and facilities including $US45 billion to build an entire city from scratch.

FIFA did announce they are suspending bidding for the 2026 World Cup, allowing the investigations to go forth while figuring out Sepp Blatter’s replacement.

While FIFA can take measures to fix the future of the sport, it’s far more complicated to undo its past decisions.

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