More reason to reassess World Cup 2022
A leaked report prepared by FIFA’s ethics committee said that there is “overwhelming evidence” that Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam tried to bribe voters during the last FIFA election. Working in concert with CONCACAF president Jack Warner, whom the report labeled “an accessory to corruption,” bin Hammam is said to have offered members of the Caribbean Football Union $40,000 each to vote for him over incumbent Sepp Blatter.
Bin Hammam, who has been suspended from FIFA activities and faces an inquiry, and Warner, who resigned from all football duties on Monday, strenuously maintain their innocence. But the report, which also said that Warner’s testimony was “self-serving” and implausible, is damning to both men.
The obvious question is this: If bin Hammam tried to buy the FIFA presidency, what else might he have bought? Bin Hammam was intimately involved with Qatar’s World Cup 2022 bid, a successful campaign that shocked world football — and has been subsequently dogged by whispers of corruption and payoffs.
The questions over Qatar’s shock win are not new. FIFA president Sepp Blatter was forced to acknowledge, after the Cups were awarded, that the process invited collusion and that vote trading took place. In addition, many have questioned the wisdom of hosting a World Cup in the heat of summer in one of the hottest regions in the world.
But the links to a man FIFA has already suspended, and whose own investigation makes crystal clear is suspect, have to lead to a thorough re-examination of the Qatar World Cup. Bin Hammam was the architect of Qatar’s bid, steering it through what has been revealed as a corrupt and ethically bankrupt process.
In fact, FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke claimed that Qatar had “bought” the World Cup in an email that was leaked by Warner during the scandal. The release of the letter was designed to embarrass FIFA and buttress Warner’s claims that “gifts” were commonplace.
Valcke wrote, in part: “[Bin Hammam] thought you can buy FIFA just as [Qatar] bought the World Cup.” Valcke subsequently claimed that he meant Qatar’s vast wealth had helped it “efficiently promote its bid,” an explanation few are buying — save of course, for FIFA, which said Tuesday that it would not discipline Valcke.
Some Americans believe that Qatar unfairly won the cup at the USA’s expense, and this will do nothing to dissuade them.y
The fact is, however, that Qatar may well have won the Cup fair and square. Americans should be mindful that some of the same kinds of accusations were tossed at the USA in 1994. Then many believed America used its wealth and clout to land a World Cup despite soccer’s perceived lack of popularity here at that time.
But FIFA has operated under such an ethical cloud over the past 18 months that the question has to be answered once and for all. Just as a neutral third party was called into investigate claims of Warner’s malfeasance, so should one be appointed to examine the decisions to award the Cup to the Middle Eastern State. We don’t know — nor should we presume — what such an inquiry would find. But one must be held, and held immediately.
FIFA cannot erect a cone of silence around this matter as it attempted to do by cutting a deal with Warner to walk away with the “presumption of innocence.” Nor can it allow its membership to continue to deny that corruption and ethical challenges are commonplace within its highest ranks. If FIFA truly wants to promote “Fair Play,” then the best place to start is here. Anything less is unfair to the other bidders for the World Cup, to say nothing of Qatar.
After all, it is Qatar that faces the prospect of holding the world’s greatest sporting event under what may well be an undeserved cloud.
Jamie Trecker is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the UEFA Champions League and the Barclay's Premier League.