Qatar 2022 World Cup bid team has been accused of running secret campaigns in 2010 to sabotage the bids from rival nations, primarily the United States and Australia, a report from the Sunday Times claimed. The British newspaper, in a report, said they witnessed certain documents, leaked by a whistleblower who worked on the 2022 bid team, which reveal that Qatari bid team employed a US PR firm and former CIA agents to spread false impressions against the rival nations. The report says the New York office of communications company Brown Lloyd James, now known as BLJ Worldwide, was hired for the purpose along with a team of former intelligence officers for the campaign.
As per the report, the aim of the smear campaign was to create an impression that hosting a World Cup tournament is not being supported domestically, which is one of the key criteria laid down by FIFA in the bidding process. The report adds that such a campaign is against FIFA’s bidding rules that state that World Cup bidders should not make “any written or oral statements of any kind, whether adverse or otherwise, about the bids or candidatures of any other member association”.
The Qatar bid team have denied the allegations. A statement released by Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, cited by The Sunday Times, said it “rejects each and every allegation put forward by the Sunday Times”. The statement added: “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.”
The Qatar bid team were earlier accused of corruption but were later cleared of any wrongdoing after a two-year FIFA inquiry. The report adds the leaked documents were not available during the FIFA inquiry. Former chairman of the English Football Association and England’s bid chairman Lord Triesman told the newspaper: “FIFA’s obligation is to look at the evidence thoroughly and very rapidly and have the courage to take what may be a difficult decision. If Qatar is shown to have broken the Fifa rules, then they can’t hold on to the World Cup.” He further added: “I think it would not be wrong for Fifa to reconsider England in those circumstances … We have the capabilities.”
BLJ Worldwide did not respond to a request to speak on the raised allegations.
Here are some of the alleged points of the smear campaign:
A respected academic was paid $9000 to write a negative report on the massive economic cost hosting a World Cup tournament would entail, which was later distributed to media outlets around the world.
A group of journalists, bloggers, and high-profile figures were hired to spread and hype up negative aspects of the World Cup bids in the rival countries.
In US, a group of physical education teachers were hired to ask their US Congressmen to oppose the idea of hosting the tournament on the grounds that the money spent should rather be used on high school sports activities.
In Australia, grassroots protests were organised at rugby games opposing the country’s bid.
Intelligence reports giving details on individuals who were involved in the bids from rival nations were compiled.
Qatar beat rival bids from the United States, Australia, South Korea and Japan in December 2010 to earn the right to host the 2022 World Cup. (PTI)