Qatar World Cup bribery scandal brings new allegations

Qatar’s World Cup venture has been marred with complications, including major economic concerns.
Sunday 28/01/2018
A skeleton in the closet. A 2013 file picture shows former FIFA President Sepp Blatter addressing working conditions on World Cup venues in Qatar during a news conference in Rome. (AFP)
A skeleton in the closet. A 2013 file picture shows former FIFA President Sepp Blatter addressing working conditions on World Cup venues in Qatar during a news conference in Rome. (AFP)

LONDON - A FIFA whistle-blower claimed that Doha secured hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup with a multimillion-dollar bribe.

In her book “Whatever It Takes: The Inside Story of the FIFA Way,” Bonita Mersiades, who was a member of Australia’s World Cup bid team for 2018 and 2022, claims that Qatar, through its state-owned TV company beIN Sports, won the 2022 World Cup hosting rights with a $100 million bribe.

The Daily Mail reported that the book says former FIFA President Sepp Blatter knew Qatar would win the right to host the 2022 World Cup and contacted US President Barack Obama to inform him days ahead of the vote.

Blatter said that, after the vote, he worked at stripping Qatar of hosting duties but struck a series of deals with Qatar’s emir guaranteeing that Blatter would not face a 2011 FIFA presidential challenge from Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam. FIFA’s Ethics Committee later banned Bin Hammam from football-related activities at national and international levels.

Mersiades’s book says that payment from beIN Sports, then known as Al Jazeera Sports, was done with the knowledge of former FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke, who was also subsequently banned by the international football organisation for corruption.

“Valcke’s concerns about revenue growth in relation to Qatar were assuaged when negotiations commenced in October 2010 for a bonus payment of US $100m to FIFA from Al Jazeera if Qatar won 2022. There was no way he could turn it down. According to former FIFA staff, Valcke’s share was generally 5% for negotiating the deal,” the book said, the Mail on Sunday reported.

Qatar’s World Cup venture has been marred with complications, including major economic concerns. When Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani succeeded his father as emir in 2013, he was faced with completing infrastructure needed for the 2022 football tournament.

The government actively cut costs at a time when oil prices were relatively healthy. The Financial Times reported that most of the reductions targeted costly cultural, educational and health schemes, pet projects of Sheikh Tamim’s mother, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser al-Missned.

The 2014 oil price crash compounded Doha’s woes. Deloitte estimated that it would cost $200 billion for Qatar, which reportedly has the highest construction costs among Gulf Cooperation Council countries, to host the World Cup. South Africa spent $4 billion on the 2010 World Cup and Brazil

$15 billion for 2014’s. Russia has budgeted $11.8 billion to host the World Cup this year.

Qatar’s World Cup bid has put its human rights record in the spotlight, with both Doha and FIFA criticised for poor treatment of workers building football facilities.

Despite Qatar’s pledge to remedy the situation, reports, including one by the International Labour Organisation, a UN agency, last March warned Doha to improve the treatment of migrant workers or face sanctions.

A Human Rights Watch report in September said migrant construction workers in Qatar in general and particularly those involved in the 2022 World Cup projects worked in potentially life-threatening conditions due to heat and humidity. The report said the “the lack of transparency on migrant worker deaths has made it difficult to assess the extent to which extreme weather conditions are harming those working outdoors.”

An investigation by FIFA’s Human Rights Advisory Board said it was incumbent on FIFA “to have a clear position on the rights of migrant workers in Qatar and the need to ensure that the legal protections they are afforded are in line with international labour rights standards.”

The advisory board warned against financial exploitation of the migrant workers, saying FIFA “should make clear with respect to all its events that it is unacceptable for migrant workers to be burdened with recruitment fees and should engage with the relevant local actors to promote responsible recruitment and employment practices by all contractors and subcontractors in line with leading international practices.”

In her book “Whatever It Takes: The Inside Story of the FIFA Way,” Bonita Mersiades claims that Qatar won the 2022 World Cup hosting rights with a $100 million bribe.

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