World Cup 2018: What's with all the cloak-and-dagger secrecy?

Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) offers confidential contracts with one-sided terms as they search for a future World Cup site.

L. M. Otero / AP
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones speaks to the media after giving a tour of Cowboys Stadium to a FIFA inspection team in Arlington, Tex., on Sept. 9. FIFA, soccer's international governing body, is considering what city will host the World Cup in 2018 and 2022.

Skip called attention to a op-ed I published in the LA Times. An upshot of the piece, and similar ones in other papers, was that I received an email from someone who works for an organization that was approached by an intermediary claiming to represent FIFA about being a training site should the World Cup come to the US. The person’s group declined FIFA’s, ummm, generous offer. The contract has a confidentiality clause, but my correspondent’s organization did not agree to the contract. Here are some entertaining snippets about the agreement FIFA wanted and the comments on the agreement from the person who contacted me.

1) The contract did not specify how long the organization’s facilities would be made available as a training sight nor when.

2) The organization would pay for all improvements and operations of the site as a training facility. FIFA would pay NOTHING. The organization whose facilities were to be used would cover all the costs and get no revenues.

3) The organization did not have the requisite facilities, so would have to pay a minimum of several hundred thousand dollars to install covered stadium seating, air conditioning in various facilities and a second source of electricity to the facility.

4) FIFA made a list of “core” requirements but under the contract would have the right to expand the list which my correspondent’s organization would be obligated to pay for. The agreement suggested there are more needs that would be specified later.

5) A six foot wall around the training grounds must be erected so passersby cannot watch the practices.

6) Once the agreement is signed, the organization cannot terminate it.

7) If FIFA decides that the correspondent’s organization is not satisfactorily meeting FIFA’s needs as a training site, that organization must pay all costs to build and operate a satisfactory facility somewhere else.

I wonder if the Bid Committee counts all these sorts of concessions and expenses to local groups as benefits in its economic impact assessment.

One of the issues I raised in the LA Times editorial, which was seconded by Stefan Szymanski in the comments on Skip’s post, was the secrecy of the selection process. Secrecy and wildly one-sided agreements made through intermediaries should give everyone pause. Why does it have to be like this? What are they hiding?

My correspondent commented “I understand why the agreement has a “confidentiality” clause. If I signed it, I would not want anyone to know that I did.”

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