April 20, 2021

In recent decades, sports in the Islamic Republic has become a private enrichment scheme for regime insiders such as politicians, Revolutionary Guards commanders and some affiliated with the Deep State security apparatuses.

At the same time, agents, brokers, and intermediaries easily pocket huge sums of money in transactions and deals in which sums of money goes missing from the final accounts. It’s not surprising that unqualified persons with no experience or expertise are put in charge of different sporting organizations.

Ironically, the regime insiders calling for separation of politics from sports are often the ones who benefit most from special privileges and insider connection.

Masoud Soltanifar

In this case, it’s instructive to consider Masoud Soltanifar as the head of the Ministry of Sports and Youth. A minister who, is often more comfortable with other politicians than with sportsmen and athletes. In May, Soltanifar, in a meeting with members of the parliament’s cultural commission, declared, with a straight face, that corruption, power of the agents, political interference and behind-the-scenes haggling, were among of the problems afflicting sports. Of course, he neglected to say that he himself had a role in creating these problems, since all of his six Deputy Ministers of Sports and many of managers appointed at the ministry have political backgrounds with little experience in the field of sports management.

It is this mismanagement corruption that has infested all sports, from football to wrestling and weightlifting. These are indeed dark days for Iranian sports.

Hadi Shirzad

These quarrels and mediations also reached the sport of hockey. On Nov. 23, Hadi Shirzad, Iran’s head of International Affairs of Police and Interpol chief, was named as the vice-president of the Hockey Federation without any expertise or experience in this field. Shirzad, who has a doctorate in medicine, is a member of the faculty of the university and became the director of the NAJA International Police and the director of the NAJA Institute for Law Enforcement Sciences and Social Studies!

Cronyism and Corruption

Political appointments bring about corruption in all aspects of sports. Observers believe that it’s the promotion and appointment of military and security personnel to top managerial ranks that is holding back sporting success. Indeed, former athletes interested in management are often overlooked among the ranks of managers from the security services. Of course, everyone from the experts and analysts to top managers claims to be fighting corruption but so far success has eluded them all. Murky sponsorship deals with big clubs, complicated financial arrangements, the disappearance of astronomical figures in clubs, and even the construction of IRGC bases in neighboring countries, especially in Iraq, are some of the issues that have afflicted sports in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

Of course, officials always promise to prevent corruption in sports. For example, the Deputy Minister of Sports and Youth in a TV interview in August announced that there is a serious determination to fight corruption. The Minister of Sports also wrote to the Ministry of Information and asked them for help. But there is a long way to go from words to deeds.

Missing $316,000

Ali Kafashian, the former president of the Football Federation, received a five-year ban from the ethics committee for allegedly misplacing $316,000 provided by FIFA as prize money for the national team reaching the 2014 World Cup. Kafashian, however, claimed that his email had been hacked and that the money had never reached him. The appeals committee eventually reduced his five-year ban to just one year.

Ali Kafashian

53 cases of financial misconduct

Mohammad Reza Davarzani has a master’s degree in public administration and was the president of the Iranian Volleyball Federation from 2006 to 2016. Davarzani, a former Revolutionary Guards commander, was secretary and president of Iran’s Polo and Horse Riding before moving on to head the Volleyball Federation. Reports indicate that under Davarzani, at least 53 financial irregularities and ambiguities have been reported.

Mohammad Reza Davarzani

Officials in Iran have always stated that sports should be separated from politics and be cleansed from the influence of middlemen and agents, but with the arrival of former IRGC commanders since the mid-1990s, this has become difficult. Political interference as well and financial corruption have ruined Iranian sports.

BY:  Maryam Soltanzadeh