City council approves World Cup proposal

FIFA's business practices under scrutiny

The Seattle City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved supporting a proposal to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, but Councilmember Lorena González wanted it on record that she has concerns about the business practices and ethics of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association.

The City of Seattle received a request from the president of the U.S. Soccer Federation to partner up to compete to host the 2026 World Cup last July. Called the 2026 United Bid Committee, this is a combined effort between the United States, Canada and Mexico, said Councilmember Rob Johnson before Tuesday’s vote.

Johnson said Seattle is one of 32 cities that could potentially host the 2026 World Cup. The United Bid Committee should make a submittal to FIFA by March, and the association should have a list of finalists by June.

“The World Cup is a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” said Seattle Sounders FC general counsel Maya Mendoza-Exstromis when voicing support for the city’s bid, which she is assisting with. 
A fiscal note attached to the original resolution states the United States experienced a $4 billion economic benefit from hosting the World Cup in 1994, which Mendoza-Exstromis said skipped over Seattle.
Johnson said he likes the city’s odds, when thinking about how the Sounders and Seattle Reign have team members consistently being called to national teams, as well as the 25,000 youth soccer participants in the region.
If approved by the United Bid Committee and FIFA, the city would need to complete a Racial Equity Toolkit analysis on implementing the bid package.
“FIFA expects each host city to demonstrate their willingness and interest, as well as history, toward advancing racial equity and social justice,” according to the summary and fiscal note for the resolution, “including economic and workers’ rights, minority and women owned businesses, homelessness, immigration/migration, and the ability to capitalize on the FIFA World Cup to move these issues toward solutions.”
Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda introduced an amendment to the resolution with language meant to strengthen the City of Seattle’s commitment to advancing economic and workers’ rights, which she said the city shouldn’t lose sight of as it attempts to attract FIFA here. The amendment also highlights the work the city has been doing to advance labor rights over the past several years. 
Councilmember Lisa Herbold said she wants to see an evaluation of overtime costs from the Seattle Police Department. If it is more than 3 percent of what is in the budget, she said, the city would need to take additional steps to cover that as a major event.
“My concern is that there are a number of things that we are required to do as it relates specifically to cost recovery and protecting the city’s liability,” she said. “I’m going to support this resolution, but I really hope that we are committed to doing these actions that I believe the city is actually supposed to do before we pass a resolution like this.”
Other departments that would be called on to support organizing the World Cup to occur in Seattle include the fire department, SDOT for traffic management, the city attorney’s office and Seattle Parks and Recreation for providing potential fan festival and team training sites.
González said it’s important that Seattle also apply its accountability standards when dealing with FIFA, citing no lack of documentation about its troubled past when it comes to its business practices.
Much of that reporting has involved former FIFA president Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, who served in that role from 1998 to 2015, when he and other officials were suspended, himself later being ejected from office.
Scandals surrounding FIFA, and Blatter in particular, include bribery, money laundering, financial mismanagement and sexual harassment and assault allegations. Blatter was among 14 people indicted by U.S. federal prosecutors in May 2015 for wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering. Several defendants ended up pleading guilty.
“I think that there are real concerns about their business practices,” González said. “Not just their labor practices and their human rights practices, but their business practices as a whole.”