Qatar's former emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa AlThani, and his wife, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al Missned, are handed the World Cup in 2010. (Photo courtesy: Eurosport)
By Eman El-Shenawi | Al Arabiya News Sunday, 1 June 2014
Mohammad Bin Hammam, Qatar’s former top football official, reportedly paid $5 million to help raise the Arab country’s chances of hosting the 2022 World Cup, in revealations that commentators fear could see the tournament be withdrawn from them.
The UK’s Sunday Times said it had obtained a “bombshell” cache of millions of leaked emails and documents relating to payments made by Bin Hammam who at the time was an executive member of FIFA, footballs’ international governing body.
“The files … unlock the mystery of how a tiny desert state with no football infrastructure won the right to host the world’s biggest sporting tournament,” the newspaper said.
It said the documents show Bin Hammam had used slush funds to pay out the cash to top football officials to win a “groundswell” of support for the Gulf country’s 2022 World Cup bid.
“[Bin Hammam] used 10 slush funds controlled by his private company and cash handouts to make dozens of payments of up to $200,000 into accounts controlled by the presidents of 30 African football associations who held sway over how the continent’s four executive (Exco) members would vote,” the daily said.
He also hosted a “a series of lavish junkets” for football presidents across Africa “at which he handed out almost $400,000 in cash,” the paper said. The Qatari also “met delegates privately to offer further payments while pushing for their support for the Qatar bid,” it added.
Bin Hammam, according to the newspaper, also paid $1.6 million into bank accounts controlled by former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, $450,000 of which was before the vote for the World Cup.
The paper said Bin Hammam declined to respond to correspondence and calls last week.
“His son emailed The Sunday Times to say that he and the family would not comment,” it added.
The Qatar World Cup organizing committee did not respond to a request for comment when contacted by Al Arabiya News. FIFA directed enquiries to its independent Ethics Committee, which did not immediately respond.
In December 2010, Qatar became the first Middle East Arab country to win the right to host the international sporting event that is watched by millions worldwide.
(Photo Courtesy: Qatar World Cup Committee)
Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s president, has in recent weeks admitted that it had been a “mistake” to hand the tournament to Qatar, citing the searing temperatures in the desert country.
In July 2011, Bin Hammam was banned for life by FIFA for his part in a cash-for-votes scandal. He has denied the allegations.
James Dorsey, author of a blog and related book entitled The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, told Al Arabiya News that the potential fall-out of The Sunday Times revelations could be massive.
“A possible retraction of Qatar’s right to host the 2022 World Cup,” he said, adding: “But we’ve got a fair way to go in legal terms before we see any legal action which could see a withdrawal of the hosting rights and a re-running of the bid.”
Dorsey explained the following steps FIFA may now undertake.
“What presumably has to happen is that FIFA will ask the Sunday Times to share the documentation with it . It will then have to verify the authenticity of the documentation. FIFA would have to establish that the bribing of non-FIFA executive committee members influenced the vote of executive committee members.
“Bribery as a matter of principle crosses the red line; a violation of FIFA rules by definition, but you still have to establish that a third party was influenced,” Dorsey added.