Influential figures in world soccer are voicing their support for a 2022 World Cup re-vote if FIFA finds that new allegations voters were bribed are true.
The Sunday Times began publishing a bombshell series of reports this weekend about ex-FIFA VP Mohamed Bin Hammam.
Using “millions” of documents and personal emails, the Sunday Times reports that Bin Hammam spent $US5 million on bribes and gifts, predominantly to African soccer officials, to ensure that Qatar won the bid over the United States, Australia, and Japan.
Bin Hammam is from Qatar, but was not on the country’s 2022 bid committee.
Still, the Times refers to him as “Qatari Machiavelli” and depicts him as the No. 1 most influential figure in bringing the World Cup to the Middle East.
“The files, compiled by analysing an electronic database of hundreds of millions of emails, accounts and other documents, 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 Times writes.
Twenty-four FIFA executive committee members voted on the 2022 host nation at an election in Zurich in December of 2010. Four of those members came from the African federation.
The bulk of the allegations in the Times report concerns Bin Hammam working to deliver that bloc of four votes to Qatar using $US400,000 in cash bribes at junkets, payments to the presidents of 30 different African soccer associations, and diverted funds from a FIFA committee that he controlled.
In one instance, a Gambian official allegedly emailed Bin Hammam’s assistant the day after the vote and asked where his free car was, “I write to find out about the progress of my appeal concerning the Vehicle. I have already got in my possession a colosal [sic] sum of ten thousand US dollars … and any assistance will be of immense value to me.”
He got $US50,000 three months later from an account allegedly controlled by Bin Hammam’s daughter, according to documents obtained by the Times.
Bin Hammam has already been banned from FIFA for life after being found guilty of bribery in an unrelated controversy surrounding his campaign to become FIFA president.
If the documents are authentic, this cache of emails is the most damning evidence yet that the bidding process for 2022 was corrupt.
Prominent soccer officials are now floating the idea of a re-vote.
FIFA vice president Jim Boyce, one of the most influential people in the sport as one of the 24 officials on the executive committee, said he would support stripping Qatar of the tournament on Radio 5:
“If [FIFA’s investigation] comes up and [its] recommendations are that wrongdoing happened for that vote for the 2022 World Cup, I as a member of the executive committee would have absolutely no problem whatsoever if the recommendation was for a re-vote.”
Michael van Praag, the president of the Dutch football association, said FIFA should “reconsider the allocation” if the allegations are true.
Don Garber, the commissioner of Major League Soccer, said in March that the U.S. “would be happy” to step in as host in the event that the tournament was moved.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter said last week that it was a “mistake” to hold the World Cup in Qatar because of the oppressive heat.
Now this report, along with a separate bombshell report on widespread match-fixing in The New York Times, puts even more pressure on FIFA to act and restore the integrity of the sport.
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