Russia’s role as host of the 2018 FIFA World Cup has required not only the construction of football stadiums and related infrastructure, but also the development of measures to combat possible corruption before and during the competition. This article (first published in the May 2018 edition of World Sports Advocate) describes some of those measures taken by the Ministry of Sport and the local World Cup Organising Committee. They include background checks on recruitment of officials and anti-bribery measures.

By: Anastasia Petrova, Roman Ramodin

Firm: ALRUD Law Firm

In order to prepare for the FIFA World Cup 2018, the Russian Ministry of Sport together with the Russian Football Union established ‘Russia-2018’, the Local Organising Committee (the ‘Committee’), in 2011. The Committee is responsible for control and coordination functions relating to the World Cup and is responsible for enforcing many of FIFA’s financial requirements. The Committee’s regular obligations include reporting to FIFA on the fulfillment of the requirements it imposes on the host nation in the course of World Cup preparations. As the founder of the Committee, the Ministry of Sport controls its activities, in particular with the aim of preventing any corruption from taking place in the course of the Committee’s financial planning and reimbursement activities.

Anti-bribery measures

The construction of football stadiums can give rise to corruption, for example in the form of payoffs or bribes. The Russian authorities, including the Ministry of Sport and the Committee, have tried to combat such activities by introducing preventive measures aimed at regulating recruitment policies and introducing background checks, including criminal checks, on officials. Russian law also provides for criminal liability for individuals who take or give bribes as well as those who promise or offer to act as intermediaries in bribery. An individual may be subject to criminal liability for these offences, including fines, disqualification from holding specific offices or imprisonment for a term of up to 15 years, depending on the circumstances.

Responsibilities of state officials

Since the Ministry of Sport is a state authority, its employees are considered to be state officials and have a distinct legal status. As a result and in order to comply with anticorruption legislation, they are prohibited from engaging in some activities. For example, state officials are prohibited from accepting gifts with a value exceeding approximately USD 52.

In order to combat corruption, Russian legislation establishes a requirement to prevent conflicts of interest. A conflict of interest arises in any situation in which the personal interests of a person may affect the performance of his or her professional duties. Officers must check for conflicts of interest and if there is such a conflict, they must notify the authorised person in the Ministry of Sport, who will take the necessary preventive measures. Officers of the Ministry of Sport must also provide annual reports about their income and the income of their close relatives. Another key anti-corruption obligation of state officials is to report corruption offences through whistleblowing. Russian legislation provides for the protection of whistleblowers (that is, state officials who report corruption offences).

Conclusion

Major sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup 2018 provide ample opportunities for corruption offences and abusive business practices to occur. In the absence of effective unified international standards and legislation on combating corruption in sport, FIFA and the host country have to implement rules and standards that comply with local legislation to a very tight deadline. Combating corruption at global sports events might be more efficient if there were unified global standards on the matter.