Qatar 2022: bid team ran secret campaign to ‘sabotage rivals’
Whistleblower tells The Sunday Times fake propaganda was used to tarnish rival bids
The illuminated Majlis Qatar pavilion, installed in Moscow’s Gorky Park during the 2018 World Cup. Photograph: Maxim Zmeyev/AFP/Getty
The Qatar 2022 World Cup bid team broke Fifa rules by running a secret campaign to sabotage their rivals for the tournament, it has been claimed.
The Sunday Times says it has been passed documents by a whistleblower who worked with the Qatar bid.
It says the bid team used a PR agency and former CIA operatives to disseminate fake propaganda about its main competitors, the United States and Australia.
This allegedly involved recruiting prominent figures to criticise the bids in their own countries, thus giving the impression they lacked support at home.
Fifa rules say that bidders must “refrain from making any written or oral statements of any kind, whether adverse or otherwise, about the bids or candidatures of any other member association which has expressed an interest in hosting and staging the competitions”.
Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said it “rejected” all the claims made by the paper.
According to the paper, the alleged smear campaign included paying a professor $9,000 s (€7,700) to write a damning report on the economic cost of a US World Cup, recruiting journalists and bloggers to promote negative stories in the US, Australian and international media, and organising grassroots protests at rugby matches in Australia.
The leaked documents also revealed that a group of American PE teachers had been recruited to ask congressmen to oppose a US World Cup on the grounds the money would be better spent on high school sports, the paper claimed.
Lord Triesman, former chairman of the Football Association and England bid chairman, urged Fifa to “look at the evidence thoroughly”, and said Qatar should not be allowed to “hold on to the World Cup” if they were shown to have broken Fifa rules.
He told the paper: “I think it would not be wrong for Fifa to reconsider England in those circumstances ... We have the capabilities.”
The Qatar bid team has previously been accused of corruption, but was cleared following a two-year inquiry by the Fifa ethics committee.
In a statement, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said: “The Supreme Committee rejects each and every allegation put forward by the Sunday Times.
“We have been thoroughly investigated and have been forthcoming with all information related to our bid, including the official investigation led by US attorney Michael Garcia.
“We have strictly adhered to all Fifa’s rules and regulations for the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process.”
Fifa said an investigation into the circumstances of the bid had already been carried out and no wrongdoing was found.
A Fifa spokesperson said: “Concerning the 2018 and 2022 Fifa World Cup bidding process, a thorough investigation was conducted by Michael Garcia and his conclusions are available in the report, which has been published on FIFA.com.”
“Generally speaking, complaints regarding potential breaches of the Fifa Code of Ethics may be filed via Fifa’s confidential reporting mechanism.”