By Arab News
By Ben Flanagan
Contractors working on Qatar World Cup projects face an increased risk from Doha being stripped of the rights to host the controversial 2022 tournament following the latest corruption allegations surrounding the Gulf state’s dealings with FIFA, a leading analyst has said.
Qatar allegedly offered football’s governing body as much as $880 million in secret payments at key stages in its efforts to host the 2022 World Cup, it emerged on Sunday.
The new allegations may be “the most damaging so far,” Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of Cornerstone Global, a management consultancy focused on the Middle East, told Arab News.
Nuseibeh said that the revelations posed a risk to both FIFA and companies currently working on Qatar World Cup projects.
“It is not about individuals but about institutions on both sides: FIFA itself and Qatari channel Al Jazeera. FIFA will now need to decide on how it will investigate itself, rather than individuals connected to it. The reputation of FIFA risks permanent irreversible damage,” Nuseibeh told Arab News.
“This also carries substantial risks to companies currently working on Qatar 2022 projects. With a real increase in risk in Qatar not hosting 2022, businesses involved will want reassurances from Qatari authorities on what could happen to them if Qatar is indeed stripped of the right to host.”
Leaked files seen by The Sunday Times appear to show that Doha offered FIFA $400 million 21 days before the decision to hold the tournament in the tiny Gulf state was announced.
Executives from the Qatari state-run broadcaster Al Jazeera made the offer at the height of campaigning over the tournament, in a clear breach of FIFA’s own anti-bribery rules, the UK newspaper claimed.
The TV rights contract, signed in December 2010, reportedly included a $100 million “success fee” to be paid to a FIFA account if Qatar’s bid was successful.
The British newspaper said it had seen documents that read: “In the event that the 2022 competition is awarded to the state of Qatar, Al Jazeera shall, in addition to the … rights fee, pay to FIFA into the designated account the monetary amount of $100 million.”
Such an offer would represent a huge conflict of interest and a breach of FIFA’s own rules, given that Al Jazeera is controlled by Qatar’s emir, the newspaper reported.
It is also claimed that an second television rights contract for $480 million was offered by Al Jazeera sports spinoff beIN Media in April 2014 — shortly before FIFA cut short its investigation into the World Cup bidding process, and when Qatar’s hosting of the tournament was in doubt. That pushed the amount FIFA was offered by Qatari officials to $880 million.
That contract now forms part of a bribery inquiry by Swiss police, according to the The Sunday Times report.
On Saturday evening, Damian Collins, the chairman of the UK digital, culture and media committee, said FIFA must freeze the Al Jazeera payments and launch an investigation into the contract “that appears to be in clear breach of the rules,” the paper reported.
Under the contract terms, a multimillion-dollar payment, including a portion of the $100 million “success fee” is reportedly due to be paid next month.
It has long been claimed that Qatar offered bribes to FIFA officials in its bid to host the 2022 World Cup — and this latest report will likely fuel further suspicion that Qatar effectively bought the right to host the tournament.
FIFA did not respond to a request for comment when contacted by Arab News.