5 Questions about Qatar 2022 World Cup bid claims

AP, Sunday 1 Jun 2014

FIFA's controversial choice of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup is again under scrutiny amid calls to re-run the vote

 Sepp Blatter
FIFA President Sepp Blatter announces Qatar as the host nation for the FIFA World Cup 2022, in Zurich December 2, 2010. (Photo: Reuters)

British newspaper The Sunday Times has reported that Mohamed bin Hammam, the Qatari former FIFA executive committee member, paid $5 million in patronage, gifts and legal fees to senior football officials.

The newspaper says it received ''hundreds of millions'' of emails and documents from a ''senior FIFA insider.''

They detail conversations about payments and money transfers from accounts controlled by Bin Hammam, his family and Doha-based businesses.

What are the new allegations?

That Mohamed bin Hammam systematically paid millions of dollars to some colleagues on FIFA's ruling executive committee and officials across Africa.

A total of $1.6 million to disgraced former FIFA vice president Jack Warner includes $450,000 before the December 2010 vote, when FIFA's board chose Qatar despite health risks for players and fans posed by the desert heat. As CONCACAF president, Warner should have supported his region's candidate, the United States, which Qatar beat 14-8 in the final round.

Bin Hammam also paid 305,000 euros ($415,000) toward the legal case of Reynald Temarii, a FIFA vice president who was barred from voting after a Sunday Times cash-for-votes report in October 2010.

Temarii's appeal to FIFA blocked his Oceania confederation deputy voting for Qatar's rival Australia.


Is this a smoking gun?

 Not necessarily. The stories do not link FIFA board members directly asking for or getting cash and favors for their World Cup votes.

The emails also do not appear to connect Qatar's World Cup bid officials directly with corruption attempts.

Though the Ivory Coast federation then led by FIFA board member Jacques Anouma - who pledged to ''push very hard the bid of Qatar'' - received payments of $400,000 in June 2009 and October 2010, these were FIFA funds through its ''Goal'' development program chaired by Bin Hammam.

Bin Hammam's long-term nurturing of African officials, enabled by Goal work, can also be seen in the context of his FIFA presidential ambitions.

African federation presidents did not have a World Cup vote, but do elect the FIFA president.

Still, the reports show how Bin Hammam's status in FIFA politics, and potential to be its next leader, helped Qatar's World Cup candidacy.


What happens next?

 The Sunday Times says its evidence has gone to Michael Garcia, the former U.S. Attorney in New York appointed by FIFA's executive committee in July 2012 as independent ethics prosecutor. The 2018-2022 World Cup bidding topped his agenda.

Garcia and his team have toured the world quizzing staffers from bid candidates. He is scheduled to meet Qatari officials from Monday in Oman.

The target for Garcia to report to ethics judge Joachim Eckert before the World Cup kicks off, expressed by FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, seems optimistic.

Garcia and Eckert work to their own budget and timetable. They need not follow what FIFA, Qatar or Russia, the 2018 World Cup host, want.

The newspaper promises more revelations ''over the coming weeks'' about Bin Hammam's dealings with FIFA board colleagues. They and Qatar face an anxious wait.

Though maybe not Blatter.

Blatter never revealed his voting choices, but is understood to have supported the United States, given that Qatar's win helped Bin Hammam appear presidential.

FIFA finally expelled Bin Hammam from football in 2012. The Asian Football Confederation president was implicated in mismanaging its funds, after he survived a FIFA election bribery scandal.


What is the FIFA role?

One role is, apparently, as source for the story.

The Sunday Times posted a video on its website that shows reporter Jonathan Calvert describing contact from a ''senior FIFA insider who developed concerns about the information that he could see in the large cache of documents that he'd found.''

FIFA and Blatter's relationship with Qatar 2022 has often seemed uneasy.

A FIFA technical report in 2010, which identified Qatar as the riskiest candidate, was unexpectedly released in detail weeks before the vote. Most FIFA voters ignored it.

Now, FIFA is consulting football stakeholders on moving the 2022 tournament to a November kick off that avoids the searing summer heat.

Blatter's board delayed that decision until March 2015 - likely after Garcia and Eckert complete their work.


Could the 2022 vote be re-run?

 What ''could' happen is unclear because this is uncharted territory.

FIFA's code of ethics, which came into force on July 25, 2012, requires Garcia to submit his report and Eckert to judge any breaches. A strong recommendation from either to re-run the vote would be tough to ignore.

Blatter says the decision belongs to the executive committee. It meets five times before the FIFA presidential election next May 29, including next weekend in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The FIFA leader also insists Qatar will host the event.

However, to say otherwise could pre-judge the independent ethics case and expose Blatter and FIFA to legal action from Qatar.

One certainty is that Qatar has the determination and resources for a legal fight to defend its right to host the World Cup.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)


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