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Red Card for FIFA officials?

12 May 2011 #Employment


Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.

The astounding allegations of bribes sought by four FIFA officials in return for their votes in support of England`s failed 2018 World Cup bid (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/9481563.stm) highlights just the sort of unethical behaviour the new Bribery Act 2010 is aimed at stamping out.

Unfortunately these FIFA execs will not be able to be prosecuted under the Bribery Act because the alleged discussions obviously occurred before the Act comes into effect on 1 July this year. But if the Act had been in force at the relevant time, would the alleged actions of the FIFA members amounted to criminal offences under the Act?   

Based on the evidence given under parliamentary privilege by Lord Treisman, it appears that the requests for a knighthood, money to purchase World Cup TV rights for Haiti and funds to build an education centre in Trinidad, would be caught by the section 2 offence of requesting a bribe. It is an offence for a potential recipient of a bribe to request some financial or other advantage with the intention that the function in question to be performed improperly. It is still an offence even if the person requesting the bribe is not actually going to receive the benefit of the bribe. So in this situation, Jack Warner`s alleged claim that the money sought was to benefit the peoples of Haiti and Trinidad, would not have helped him avoid liability. Whether the money which was to be "channelled through him" would have ever made it to the Caribbean is a of course a different matter!

Although FIFA has dismissed officials involved in bribery in the past, it must do more than take reactionary measures in the future. Once the Bribery Act is in force, it could be criminally liable for the actions of its officials and face unlimited fines in respect of its activities associated with the UK. So if this powerhouse of world sport wants to restore its reputation, it must take action to implement robust procedures for preventing bribery and ensure they are enforced. This should at least ensure FIFA has a defence to any prosecutions for bribery offences in the UK. Easier said than done for an organisation which seems to have such a pervasive culture of bribery and corruption.

For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at employmentunit@clarkslegal.com by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.

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