The Sunday Times’ report into alleged corruption surrounding Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid is yet another unwanted body blow to FIFA’s credibility as the custodians of world soccer. The central allegation revolves around former Asian Football Confederation President Mohammed Bin Hammam, who is claimed to have paid a total of $5million to so-called ‘senior football officials’ in the forms of gifts, legal assistance and cash. The goal allegedly was for the beneficiaries of these ‘gifts’ to view the Qatari bid in a more sympathetic light and ultimately build momentum to bring the world’s premier soccer tournament to the oil-rich state.
Amongst the names who reportedly accepted Bin Hammam’s ‘gifts’ were former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner, who apparently was paid a total of $1.6million including $450,000 just before the vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and Reynald Temarii, another FIFA Vice President, who was alleged to have been given $415,000 to help pay legal fees after he was banned from the World Cup voting process. Former World Player of the Year George Weah was also allegedly paid, as well as other mid-ranking football officials.
The Qatar 2022 World Cup organizing team quickly came out with a statement denying any wrong-doing and said that Mohamed Bin Hammam had nothing to do with their bid in an ‘official or unofficial’ capacity. Furthermore, the Qatari team has vowed to cooperate fully with FIFA’s chief investigator Michael Garcia, who is looking into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.
Despite the revelations by The Sunday Times, Michael Garcia will not study the new evidence. FIFA’s Chief Ethics Investigator is aiming to complete his work next week and sources familiar with the investigation point out that he wouldn’t be able to meet his deadline if he chose to examine the fresh set of evidence. It’s a controversial decision by Garcia, to say the least.
Garcia’s report will be eagerly anticipated and if he does believe that there has been any wrong doing then calls for a revote, which have already been raised, will only increase. Interestingly, should a revote happen, the United States could consider themselves favorites to host the tournament. The US bid was beaten by the Qataris 14-8 in the run-off for the 2022 World Cup. Bear in mind though that immediately after the furor over the awarding of the World Cup began, the voting rules were changed allowing the 209 member federations to vote as opposed to restricting the privilege to the Executive Committee.
There’s little desire within FIFA to conduct a revote because that could mean having to redo the 2018 World Cup bid as well due to the cloud hanging over the dual voting process. Of course, a legal challenge from the Qataris is more than likely as well if they were stripped of the right to host the tournament.
Whether all that comes to pass remains to be seen, but this is yet another stain on FIFA’s governance of the game and soccer’s governing body needs to reform quickly if it wishes to give off a semblance of credibility.