SII Focus 5th November 2015

ICSS denies claims it is working for Qatar’s benefit

The International Centre for Sports Security (ICSS) has denied a series of allegations that it is working for the benefit of Qatar by deflecting attention away from allegations of corruption and human rights abuses in connection to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Specifically, ICSS President Mohammed Hanzab (pictured) and Executive Director of Integrity Chris Eaton denied that the organisation’s purpose is to deflect attention away from corruption allegations in connection to Qatar’s bid to hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup and human rights issues faced by workers building its stadiums; and that it produced a report clearing Mohammed bin Hammam of corruption.

The ICSS also confirmed that it has raised the human rights issues faced by workers building the 2022 World Cup stadiums with the Qatari government. In two years it plans to become self-sufficient, removing its requiring for support from the Qatari government, which currently provides 70% of its funding. It also confirmed that none of the speakers attending Securing Sport 2015, which took place 3-4 November in New York, were paid to attend.

Qatar government’s involvement

“The Qatar government has nothing to do with it at all”, said Hanzab. “The ICSS is my initiative, the liability is on me. It is true that it is 70% funded by the Qatar government and 30% is funded through projects we run. I have a plan with my team that we will be self-funded in two years. We are working with initial advisors. I have said to many people, if you can secure me the 70% from other governments, from other foundations, then I will be happy, as I will be a free man and I will not face this question wherever I go.”

“We do not, as an organisation, exist at the behest of the Qatari government”, added Eaton. “We exist at the behest of our founder, who happens to get his support mostly from the Qatari government. I would love it if the UK government decided to fund a totally neutral organisation like ours without any affiliation to a sports body, without any affiliation to Qatar 2022 for instance, without any affiliation to FIFA or UEFA.”

“I will not risk or compromise the reputation or credibility of the ICSS – no way”, continued Hanzab, who also pointed out that the ICSS was set up in 2007, before Qatar launched its bid to host the tournament in 2009. “Not only with Qatar, but with any government, foundations or international organisations. I will not accept this and the Advisory Board would also not accept somebody coming along with a cheque asking us to do this. All these people here are not paid. None of them are paid. None of them would come and speak on our platform if ICSS is serving Qatar. None of them. They all have a good name, they have a reputation and they have credibility, so they would not risk this for Mohammed Hanzab or Qatar.”

Human rights

Hanzab also confirmed that the ICSS has raised the issues faced by workers building the stadiums for the 2022 World Cup with the Qatar government – the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) estimates that 7,000 workers will die by 2022. “I am taking a position on human rights in Qatar and am taking these questions to Qatar, however I do it in a very constructive way”, said Hanzab. “I act as a responsible organisation should, not just as a commentator – to attack for the sake of attack, or naming and shaming. Rather than name or shame, let’s look at the economic impact and approach the problem from this perspective. I always push for reform in human rights and labour rights, but using sport and using incentives and showing them that if they do positive things, there can be a payback. If I seek reform and only reform, without a commercial agenda, then I should do it in the right way. I know that I will face resistance and that I will find strong people who are stronger than me who will one day kick me out or one day knock me out – whether in Qatar or outside Qatar. I know that! I am an NGO with limited resources, so if I seek real reform, I have to do it in a constructive way. To wait, be patient, and get the right result. I cannot do it overnight. I need to be altruistic as well as realistic.”

Employment of Chris Eaton

Eaton denied accusations made by the Sunday Times that he had actively sought employment with the ICSS whilst investigating allegations of corruption around the award of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar. “I know what I did whilst at FIFA was completely honest and driven by integrity”, he said. “I left FIFA for the same reasons – because of my honesty and integrity. I have nothing to apologise for to anybody. I don’t care about the Sunday Times articles. They have no evidence, nor will they find any evidence that I have done anything wrong. Indeed I challenge them to produce it, if they can. They have all of my emails over several years. Keep reading.”

Mohammed bin Hammam

Eaton also said that allegations that the ICSS had produced a report clearing Mohammed bin Hammam were “fantasy”. Bin Hammam was banned for life by FIFA in 2012 due to various allegations of attempted bribery. “There is no report”, said Eaton. “Certainly not a report by me, nor anybody I know at the ICSS. We were never tasked, nor did we see it as our task, as there was already a significant number of media people investing their time, effort and money investigating Mohamed bin Hammam and Sepp Blatter. Why would we throw good money after bad? Let them do their work.”

Eaton also echoed Hanzab’s assertion that the role of the ICSS is to work behind the scenes advising governments and police, rather than seeking publicity for its work. “The people I employ are ex-police and security officers, so we do it seriously”, he said. “We produce official reports and we send them to police. What the police do with them is their own business. The ICSS is not about announcing what we do. We do it because we recognise that sport can’t look after itself in this respect, so we pass on the information to people who can do something about it. We all have a law enforcement background, so we know what we’re doing.”

Shift in focus

However, Eaton did say that the ICSS had shifted its focus away from match-fixing to the governance issues faced by sporting organisations. “Strategically, we give match-fixing a bit of a priority three”, he said. “The first priority is corruption in football governing organisations. Our second priority is corruption in sports betting organisations – particularly on the black market in South East Asia, Costa Rica and in the safe havens that masquerade as tax havens, but are really anonymity havens. We have shifted our priority from match-fixing because there is enough of a focus on this today.”

Yesterday, as reported by the Sports Integrity Initiative, the ICSS launched a global sports integrity platform featuring governments, sporting organisations and non-governmental organisations. The full membership and composition of the platform is available here.

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