FIFA members assure that Qatar may be stripped from its hosting rights if corruption accusations are confirmed. Previously lost bidders watch closely as pressure mounts over FIFA ahead of final inquiry report.
Two English press outlets shocked the football world over the past three days. Revelations concern the Executive Committee’s vote that saw Russia and Qatar win their World Cup rights for 2018 and 2022.
Attacks from England
The Sunday Times was first to reveal that Mohammed bin Hammam offered bribes in both cash, jobs and contract lobbying to members of the Executive Committee. The newspaper assures it has documents confirming various unethical methods of attempting to influence voting committee members.
Bin Hammam is said to have paid millions in cash, also offering car dealerships or internships or job opportunities to family members of the members.
And while the controversial lobbyist was removed from FIFA and the AFC after being proven to offer bribes in a different vote, bin Hammam is now reported to also attempt to influence Michel Platini. The UEFA president supported Qatar as a member of the voting committee, but failed to disclose information about his private meeting with bin Hammam shortly before voting. This news was brought by The Telegraph, who also claim to have evidence for the claims.
FIFA probe nearing finish
Regardless of these revelations, FIFA’s internal investigation into the possible corruption has been ongoing for months. Former American prosecutor Michael J. Garcia is leading the probe. He assured that after months of traveling and interviewing various officials around the world, he will end on June 9. Final report on his findings should be filed and presented in July, most probably around July 21, giving time to close the Brazilian World Cup.
Britain’s former attorney general and FIFA Independent Governance Committee member Peter Goldsmith assures the decision giving Qatar host rights may be revoked. “If it’s proved that the decision to give Qatar the World Cup was procured by … bribery and improper influence, then that decision ought not to stand”, he said on BBC Radio 4. Similar opinion was expresses by FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce and several other officials.
On the other hand, the Asian governing body AFC stands firmly behind Qatar. President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa expressed his grave concern over the media reports calling into question Qatar's hosting of the 2022 tournament. "The Asian Football Confederation stands by Qatar when it defends its rights to host the World Cup of 2022. The insistence of certain media outlets on how the organisation of the 2022 World Cup was awarded is part of a campaign (against Qatar)," he added.
"That leads us to question the real reasons behind this campaign and to ask whether certain people are not trying to stop the World Cup being organised in an Asian country."
Lost bidders gearing up? Not yet…
As the option of reopening the bidding procedure appeared on the horizon, enthusiasm can be seen in some ranks. While the American and South Korean committees declined to comment on the issue, Japanese bid’s leader Yuichiro Nakajima suggested the vote should be rerun.
Australia went further, assuring on Monday that a new bid might be submitted, should such opportunity arise. The issue will be monitored closely by the FFA, but no solid steps were officially taken by the Australian football’s governing body. Still, it was only hours since the announcement that the new stadium planned for Canberra was confirmed to be available in a larger version, eligible to host the World Cup.
Ironically, however, Australia may come under fire as well. The FFA’s former official was interviewed during the very same corruption probe and suggested Australia’s ethics was also very arguable. Bonita Mersiades, who was the association’s corporate affairs manager at the time of the bid, told The Age that the Australian association has previously tried to avoid exposing “international development” grants the FFA allegedly gave to overseas football bodies in the run up to the 2010 vote.