Bung claims threaten Qatar 2022 World Cup

FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce is in favour of re-running the vote for the 2022 World Cup if corruption allegations are proven. Picture: PA
FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce is in favour of re-running the vote for the 2022 World Cup if corruption allegations are proven. Picture: PA

WORLD Cup organisers are facing calls to re-run the contest to host the 2022 tournament amid allegations about corruption in the bidding process.

A Sunday newspaper said it had seen a cache of documents which exposed that Qatar’s victory in securing the tournament was sealed by a covert campaign by disgraced former football official Mohamed bin Hammam.

The newspaper said the former Qatari vice-president of Fifa, world football’s governing body, used secret slush funds to make dozens of payments totalling more than five million dollars to senior football officials to create a groundswell of support for Qatar’s bid.

It said he used ten slush funds controlled by his private company and cash handouts to make dozens of payments of up to $200,000 (£120,000) into accounts controlled by the presidents of African football associations who held sway over how the continent’s four executive members would vote.

In response to the claims, Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce said he would be in favour of re-running the vote if allegations that widespread corruption was involved in the bid were proved.

Mr Boyce, who was not on the executive committee of the world governing body at the time of the vote, said Fifa’s chief investigator Michael Garcia, who is already looking into allegations of corruption, would have to widen his investigation.

Mr Boyce said: “As a member currently of the Fifa executive committee, we feel that any evidence whatsoever that people involved were bribed to make a certain vote, all that evidence should go to Michael Garcia, whom Fifa have given full authority to, and let’s await the report that comes back.

“If Garcia’s report comes up and his recommendations are that wrongdoing happened for that vote for the 2022 World Cup, I certainly, as a member of the executive committee, would have absolutely no problem whatsoever if the recommendation was for a re-vote.”

Shadow international development secretary Jim Murphy also called for the decision to be “cancelled and re-run” if the allegations were found to be true.

He said: “The Qatar decision has always been controversial of course, but if these allegations and the contents of the e-mails that the Sunday Times now has turn out to be true, there can be no question about this.”

He added: “It would have to be cancelled and re-run entirely. They should have a fair and open competition. The failure to do so would amount to the biggest crisis in Fifa since its formation in 1904.”

John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, said: “My committee examined allegations two years ago that there had been corrupt payments involved in the decision, and we called for a full, transparent investigation. However, since then, Fifa have attempted to brush off the allegations.

“There does need to be an urgent and full transparent investigation to establish the facts.”

Mr Whittingdale said Fifa president Sepp Blatter’s position was “almost untenable” as he had been very dismissive of the allegations over the past couple of years and did not appear to have taken them seriously.

“There have already been serious doubts raised about the capability of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup on football grounds. If the choice of Qatar was as a result of improper payments, then that strengthens an already strong case for re-running the whole 2022 contest.”

The Sunday Times said the official Qatar bid committee had always insisted Bin Hammam was an entirely separate individual who had nothing to do with the campaign to take the World Cup to Doha. Qatar beat bids from South Korea, Japan, Australia and the US.

The newspaper said the Qatari bid committee disowned Mr bin Hammam when he was banned from football in 2011 after being caught bribing voters in his campaign to be elected Fifa president. But the leaked documents allegedly show how he worked with the leaders of the bid and lobbied key voters, arranging lavish junkets paid for by the 2022 team at which he offered football officials large payments in exchange for their support.