Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Russia’s Sports Bureaucracy has Behaved as If It Expected a World Cup Boycott All Along and Doesn't Care, Isayev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 13 – Just as some Western politicians have run for office not to win but to improve their brand, so too, Nikita Isayev says, the sports bureaucracy of the Russian Federation has behaved in ways that suggest it doesn’t care if there is a boycott of the World Cup because its members have already extracted as much money as they could from this project.

            In a devastating article in Nezavisimaya gazeta, the Moscow economist points out that in almost every single one of the venue cities, officials have corruptly diverted massive funds into their own pockets or those of allied oligarchs that were supposed to go to the development of infrastructure (

                These officials have made the money that they were going to make out of this project, he says; and so they are little concerned about the fact that as a result of the West’s response to Moscow’s latest moves, the entire World Cup competition may be boycotted. Indeed, given the failures of these officials, some may be glad that their shortcomings won’t be on public view. 

            This corruption is most obvious at the city level, but central sports functionaries are very much part of it and likely feel much the same way: Vitaly Mutko, fresh from destroying Russia’s reputation with international sports, has again and again said that “everything is going according to plan,” even when to the unaided eye, it isn’t. 

            “One thing is clear,” Isayev says. “The Russian authorities cannot but understand that preparation for the World Cup has failed.” And it has done so because sports officials in alliance with others including corrupt oligarchs aren’t concerned about sports: they are only interested in lining their own pockets, something they have now done.

            Russian fans will certainly be upset if there is a boycott; but those who have enriched themselves as a result of this Kremlin project almost certainly won’t be. 

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