Mounting calls to strip Qatar of 2022 World Cup after ‘black operations’ revelations
LONDON - FIFA is facing renewed calls to strip Qatar of its 2022 World Cup hosting duties following reports that Doha engaged in illegal practices to undermine rival bids.
The Sunday Times in London reported July 29 the Qatari government sponsored a clandestine campaign to sabotage rival countries’ bids to host the football tournament. The article led to calls for FIFA to investigate and move the event, set for late 2022, from Qatar.
Former Football Association Chairman David Triesman, who led England’s failed 2018 World Cup bid, said if Qatar was found guilty of breaking rules, FIFA should strip the country of its hosting duties and relocate the event to England.
Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter said Qatar’s illicit campaign was even more extensive.
“Bad news: Qatar accused of denigration of other bidders! Fact is Qatar won after a political intervention by the former French President [Nicolas] Sarkozy to FIFA Vice-President [Michel] Platini,” Blatter posted on Twitter. He said details could be found in his upcoming book.
In 2015, Blatter and Platini were let go by FIFA and banned from the game for eight years following a series of corruption scandals.
The Sunday Times report stated that the Qatari campaign involved recruiting influential figures “to attack the bids in their own countries, seeking to create the impression that there was ‘zero support’ for the World Cup domestically.” Strong backing from residents is among FIFA’s chief criteria in granting hosting duties.
The report, based on documents leaked by a whistle-blower from the Qatari bid team, said Doha relied on a public relations firm and former US intelligence officials to spread “fake propaganda” in Australia and the United States, two of the major bidders to host the 2022 World Cup.
The revelations indicate that Qatar could have been in violation of FIFA guidelines, which stipulate that bidding countries must not make “any written or oral statement of any kind, whether adverse or otherwise, about the bids or candidatures of any other member association.”
Among the leaked messages sent to Qatar’s deputy bid leader Ali al-Thawadi was an indication that authorities in Doha “were aware of a plot to spread ‘poison’ against its chief rivals — even cooking up a resolution for the US Congress on the ‘harmful’ effects of an American World Cup in the week of the vote.”
“For the past 4 months we have undertaken an extensive campaign to undermine the 2018/2022 candidacies of competitor countries, particularly Australia and the US,” an e-mail from the president of BLJ Worldwide, a pubic relations firm, read.
“Recruiting journalists, bloggers and high-profile figures in each market to raise questions and promote negative aspects of their respective bids in the media. Dozens of articles have appeared in US, Australian and international media that have embarrassed or undermined these bids,” the e-mail stated.
In December 2010, Qatar surprisingly won the right to host the 2022 World Cup. However, allegations of corruption and vote-buying quickly followed.
Preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup have damaged Qatar economically. The government has introduced cost-cutting measures to complete various construction projects for the event.
The Financial Times said most of the cuts affected culture, education and health schemes led by Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, the mother of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
The 2014 oil price crash compounded Doha’s woes, with the country’s construction fees that are the highest among Gulf Cooperation Council members.
The consultancy Deloitte said construction costs related to Qatar’s 2022 World Cup efforts total an estimated $200 billion. South Africa spent $4 billion to host the World Cup in 2010 and Brazil $15 billion in 2014. Russia’s costs for the 2018 World Cup were said to be more than $14 billion.