Jack Warner raises Qatar temperatures again
Reality is that we should all be well beyond worrying about the finer points of who did what for whom and why
Jack Warner: describes the furore over Daily Telegraph revelations as “foolishness”.
Former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner might have a point when, as he did yesterday, he describes the furore regarding the emergence of documents detailing payments he asked for and received from Mohamed Bin Hammam in the weeks after Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup as “foolishness”.
The reality is that we should all be well beyond worrying about the finer points of who did what for whom and why. Better to stick instead to the wider fact that more than enough is known at this stage about those who did the voting to utterly discredit the selection process that resulted three years ago in the tournament being awarded to an oil-rich emirate with summer temperatures so high that the entire game’s international calendar will have to be turned on its head to allow it stage the event in mid winter.
The whole story is back in the news because the Daily Telegraph has uncovered documents that show a company belonging to Warner, then President of Concacaf, billing one owned by Bin Hammam, who had been campaigning hard for Qatar, for around €860,000 for “professional services” within weeks of the December 2010 vote; almost as much again was split between Warner’s two sons and an employee of Warner’s firm.
Really, though, the content of the documents cannot have surprised anyone. Bin Hammam has been found by CAS to have “more likely than not” brought large sums of cash to meetings held in May 2011 to make payments to Fifa delegates and quite a few of them; like Brazil’s Ricardo Teixeira, Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay and Issa Hayatou of Cameroon were forced to resign their positions after various findings against them.
Teixeira, was one of the more extreme examples, with Joao Havelange’s former son-in-law, going after it became known that he had taken around €700,000 in pay-offs from the Fifa-owned marketing company ISL. Havelange had to go for the same reason although neither was prosecuted as, rather magnificently, taking a bribe was not a crime in Switzerland at the time.
Others, most notably, Chuck Blazer, a close associate of Warner at Concacaf have also departed amid allegations of substantial improprieties while quite a few surviving ExCo members had, it emerged, links to Qatar that, while not illegal or even, they would argue, inappropriate, scarcely helped to inspire confidence in the integrity of the process.
The Qataris yesterday distanced themselves from Bin Hammam and any “business dealings between private individuals” and but even setting aside the idea that they set out to “buy votes,” the bid team threw a lot of money around and certainly found a lot of willing recipients of their largesse.
Michel Platini, who openly supported the bid, got fairly peripherally dragged into the whole controversy because his son worked for the Qataris, a fact the Uefa president dismissed as being of little consequence.
It shouldn’t be and there is certainly no evidence of Platini’s vote having been remotely influenced by any improper considerations. The pity is that the Frenchman’s position: that he voted for Qatar knowing full well that the World Cup would, in clear contravention of the bid terms, have to be moved to the winter, seems utterly incomprehensible to almost everyone but him. When asked about it in Monaco last summer he simply shrugged and suggested that it was obvious the tournament could not be played in temperatures of more than 40 degrees despite the bid proposal envisaging all 12 stadiums being air conditioned.
Fifa’s medical people have since come to the same conclusion and senior officials, including general secretary Jerome Valcke have been preparing the ground for a switch despite the fact that Qataris, who should, technically speaking, request the move, have so far declined to play ball.
The heat, though, is just one of the reasons why Qatar should never have got the tournament. The absence of democratic rights, restrictions on women and discrimination against gays are actually better ones.
Getting back to more straightforward footballing reasons, though, the prospect of a legacy comparable say to what might have been achieved in rival bidder Australia, seems pretty far-fetched in a country with a population not much greater than that of Dublin.
Several related criticisms, incidentally, might well be made of the decision, made the same day, to award Russia the 2018 tournament, something Vladimir Putin described at the time as “a sign of trust” in his country.
Sepp Blatter has been at the helm for all of this and has stood by many of those accused of wrong doing until it was simply impossible to do so anymore. If he was the chief executive of an NGO here he would no doubt be hauled in before the Public Accounts Committee where his answers would generate previously unimagined levels of incredulity and exasperation. Fifa, though, like the IOC, is effectively answerable to nobody.
Still, a few weeks ago, in a tweet about changes to the conduct of the International Football Association Board, the committee that decides on the rules of the game, Blatter welcomed the fact that they would lend greater “transparency and credibility” to debates about its work.
It was good to see that these apparently matter to Blatter’s but if he really wants the claim to be taken remotely seriously he should take swift action to reopen the issue of where the 2022 World Cup is to be staged because the bidding process clearly lacked transparency and its outcome looks less credible with each passing day.