My name is Rob Harris, and I’m a sports journalist for The Associated Press based in London. Part of my beat is FIFA, the organizing body of the World Cup.

I have been reporting on ethics issues with the 2018 and 2022 bidding process, concerns that led FIFA’s top ethics attorney to resign in protest of how the organization handled his investigation findings. On Friday, FIFA announced that it would eventually release the finding but would not reopen the bidding process for 2018 and 2022.

I also recently reported on problems with working conditions in Qatar among those preparing the small country to host the tournament in 2022, including those in the construction and transportation sectors.

You can see more of my work here, and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have! I'll be answering questions from 1-2 p.m. ET.

Proof here and here.

EDIT: Thanks for all the questions, everyone! Enjoyed talking with you and please feel free to follow me on Twitter here: @RobHarris and our work here: http://bigstory.ap.org/content/rob-harris

Comments: 440 • Responses: 23  • Date: 

ithinkandroid242 karma

What are the main consequences, in your opinion, if Qatar actually happens? Are we going to witness boycotts?

RobHarrisAP260 karma

Seems unlikely there'd be a boycott of the World Cup - either over FIFA's ethics issues or Qatar's labor rights. National football associations aren't willing to take the risk, and there is never a strong enough consensus in the anti-Blatter camp.

blacklist_member153 karma

Is there an actual chance of the world cup to Qatar? I live in Qatar at the moment, and the widespread belief here is that there is no chance in hell that they would take it away.

RobHarrisAP189 karma

I can't see how FIFA could risk taking the World Cup off Qatar without the strongest of evidence that doesn't exist at the moment. Also I sense it could be seen as the West denying the Middle East its first World Cup. And given how economically important Qatar is to so many countries, like Britain, the consequences could be far-reaching. As a event, logistically it should be very smooth - if held in the winter.

_tevan119 karma

Do you think Qatar should be stripped of the rights to hold the 2022 World Cup? Do you think the US will get another World Cup in the near future?

RobHarrisAP141 karma

FIFA has said both Russia and Qatar can proceed as normal. Can't see Qatar being stripped of the 2022 WC unless a smoking gun emerged to suggest wrongdoing that would stand up in court. Qatar is making progress - in response to criticism - improving labor rights. Potentially the only thing that could see the event moved from Qatar is unforeseen escalation of regional security issues.

Terex8065 karma

Should countries boycott the Qatari world cup? Especially due to funding of ISIS and use of slave labour/very poor human rights. Not to mention the obvious corruption

RobHarrisAP49 karma

Qatar denies funding terrorism. See this from our interview last month with a minister. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/cd9fb2fdefe44b53b8ad913143631271/qatar-world-cup-critics-were-no-vampires On the human rights record, it's clear that the scrutiny surround the World Cup has led to the country making rapid changes to enhance rights for migrant workers. Although FIFA President Sepp Blatter insists politics has no place in sport, on the other hand he now points to how the World Cup is helping to transform Qatar.

Facerless62 karma

How much influence do countries participating in the world cup have with FIFA? It seems like an organization with this level of perceived corruption could be reigned in by a major world power given the national interest involved in the competition.

RobHarrisAP89 karma

To radically overhaul FIFA it would need the sponsors and broadcast rights holders to threaten to withdraw funding. Although given how the popularity of the World Cup is growing, there will be other sponsors and broadcasters waiting to snap up FIFA rights in an instant. Regarding other associations, it's usually just the English and a few others willing to speak out against FIFA. Blatter has strong support globally, in part due to the wealth he has generated for FIFA which has led to development grants being given to national associations.

lula248851 karma

Have you encountered any problems/hindrance while trying to report on the controversies?

RobHarrisAP82 karma

I spent two weeks in Qatar last month and encountered few issues when looking into labor issues. I found we could report quite freely. The main issue on FIFA controversies are how you report corruption allegations without legal repercussions. It's why some of the most significant allegations have been made through a House of Commons select committee in the UK which has legal cover - parliamentary privilege

LeedsUnitedCalypso23 karma

Do you believe the English media has had an overall negative impact on our chances of hosting a World Cup in the forseeable future? I can't think of any other reasons why the bid went so poorly (Well, pretending bribes and such don't exist).

RobHarrisAP30 karma

England's bid was highly rated by the bid inspection team. But those reports were largely ignored when FIFA's executive committee voted in December 2010. Even Blatter recognises how easy and successful it would be to host a World Cup in England. But then we factor in politics. The English FA criticised the media investigations before the vote in 2010 in the British media, but now embrace allegations from the same outlets to use in their case against FIFA. FIFA certainly would prefer it if the media stopped investigating the organisation, but I'm sure the scrutiny of FIFA would have continued in the UK papers even if England's 2018 bid had won.

dutchkimble18 karma

Whats it like working for a newspaper? When you write articles do you envision them in print or a screen?

RobHarrisAP24 karma

I work for The Associated Press. Some background here http://www.ap.org/company/about-us So most of the major newspapers in the world, websites and TV stations take our content. When planning a story, you hope it's of interest to a global audience. It's fascinating being involved in some of the biggest stories in sports news that resonate with audiences so much - as social media trends so - and interviewing the key newsmakers

LeedsUnitedCalypso16 karma

Hi Rob, hope you don't mind me asking a non-Fifa question, although it is about a corrupt footballing organisation.

Do you think it is fair that Shaun Harvey is allowed to be chief exec. of the football league and pass judgement on whether people are fit and proper owners, despite having spent years with a certain Mr Bates and having been through three administrations, which would mean he would disqualify himself!?

Cheers.

RobHarrisAP13 karma

I haven't covered enough on Leeds in depth - mainly because there isn't the global interest (for The Associated Press) with them being out of the PL. I recall Harvey did take no part in the most recent decision

flash_ninja16 karma

Hi there, what would you see as the ideal solution for all parties regarding the Qatar controversy?

RobHarrisAP11 karma

The solution that will happen is Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup in November-December 2022 with Qatar funding payments to clubs releasing players or affected by the disruption to the football calendar. The European Club Association issues with the move from summer, I expect will be solved by getting the cheque book out.

AgainstLeague314 karma

Was Blatters question to the FA asking whether they would forfeit their right to prosecute in relation to its contents, in your opinion, a bluff or a warning?

RobHarrisAP9 karma

It Blatter expertly managing to turn the issue back on the English - whose own bidding methods were criticised, mainly because they co-operated more than many bids.

JulitoCG12 karma

Despite all of the ethical issues, are you still excited for the cup? As a Uruguayan, of course I am, but I want to know if these issues are becoming a barrier to anyone's enjoyment of the greatest event on Earth.
As far as you've heard, is any country considering not sending a delegation as a sign of protest (like they did in the early years of the Cup)?

RobHarrisAP19 karma

The World Cup in Brazil was a tremendous event - largely due to the matches and the environment as well add to the occasion - be it on Copacabana or away from Rio. I find fans very quickly switch from an anti-FIFA/Blatter mode to the non-toxic parts of the FIFA brand - watching games, engaging in the Ballon D'Or or playing the FIFA branded computer game which helps to fund FIFA obviously...

Danny-Denjennery10 karma

Qatar - Platini, Blatter, or a bit of both?

RobHarrisAP11 karma

Unsure about the question? Platini voted for Qatar, Blatter voted for the US it seems

Buggie1119 karma

%chance Russia does not host the 2018 cup is?

RobHarrisAP25 karma

Can't see Russia losing it - unless there's a dramatic escalation of the regional issues. The Sochi Games boycott calls never gained global support.

AgainstLeague39 karma

Lower league football in England is starting to embrace supporter owned clubs, as has been done around the world in many countries, as well as calling for a role in governance.

Would FIFA ever consider allowing fan representation onto ExCo or allowing fans in some way to become stakeholders in FIFA?

RobHarrisAP3 karma

Valid point. Would probably first need a strong international fan movement, linking groups from each country, to find a figure who could represent fans.

perspective_48 karma

Do you think the outright negativity regarding Qatar hosting the World Cup is due to it being a Middle-East country?

RobHarrisAP19 karma

Some Qatari officials think that's a factor and ask why Russia isn't getting as much scrutiny given the issues there, particularly over Ukraine. On issues like alcohol, fans can't expect the same right to drink as they would do in other countries and have to recognise there's a need to respect the local culture.

spgrey7 karma

Realistically, are there five national associations with the courage to nominate another candidate for FIFA President? If so, who are they?

RobHarrisAP9 karma

Given how England leads the anti-FIFA opposition, it's very hard to continue speaking out so heavily against Blatter without putting their own candidate forward (surely they could get 5 nominations) or find a candidate who they endorse. Although Blatter will win - health permitting

AgainstLeague37 karma

Whats known about the 5 cases/individuals FIFA will consider before the publication of the corruption report?

RobHarrisAP6 karma

Blatter has called for a new investigation into the corruption report ... to discover how the 5 names were leaked. I expect the cases will drag out, so it seems unlikely the report will emerge in public in 2015.

spgrey5 karma

Are the charges against Harold Mayne-Nicholls trumped up purely to prevent him from running for FIFA President?

RobHarrisAP5 karma

His section on Qatar in the inspection report did flag up "high risk" elements of the bid. A report that was largely ignored by the executive committee voters. He does say he's co-operating with the investigation, which was necessary if Garcia believed he did use his links to Qatar for other purposes. He denies wrongdoing. Hard to see him beating Blatter.

OM_funkenstein5 karma

Will Qatar reach the minimum number of stadium sites prior to the World Cup? If not could matches be played in another country or could the whole Cup be moved to another country.

RobHarrisAP9 karma

It would have been more logical if the World Cup had been spread across the region, although that overlooks the fact there are regional rivalries. Qatar wants to show it can host the event, not share it with the UAE. But I don't expect Qatar will have any problems completing the stadium building projects and vast new infrastructure in time. It's often highlighted that the city of Lusail - where the opener and final will be played in 2022 - hasn't even been built yet. But we are still 8 years from the tournament - London was only awarded the Olympics 7 years before 2012 and then started the mass building work required. And building a city from scratch is far easier, it seems, than redeveloping infrastructure like a Subway/Metro/Underground in an existing city.

Strobey4 karma

Is there really any hope for this sport when the athletes and officials in the matches are often on the take, and the officials making the World Cup decisions seem to be just as crooked? I reference www.declanhill.com with regards to match fixing.

RobHarrisAP6 karma

The moment people stop believing what they are witnessing is a genuine sporting contest, the sport is at risk. Fixers haven't taken over football but there the cases that have been exposed are alarming. There is pressure for national law enforcement authorities to get more involved. In the UK there have been several cases - not just in football - where prosecutions have been mounted.

wooddraw3 karma

Have you heard anything about the scope of the current FBI investigation, and who might be involved?

RobHarrisAP7 karma

The FBI is staying publicly silent on the investigation despite being involved in some capacity for several years. Any case would likely involve people with direct involvement financially in the US

AgainstLeague33 karma

Why is Blatter so popular in the Confederations that support him when so many individuals and organisations are starting to speak out against him?

RobHarrisAP10 karma

The individuals and organisations speaking out tend to be focused around Western Europe. Beyond there Blatter seems to enjoy the support of most football associations - thanks to the cash distributed through FIFA development projects, which they don't want to risk losing.