Qatar World Cup bribe claims: what's next for Fifa?
Sunday Times allegations pile the pressure on Fifa to strip Qatar of the 2022 World Cup
Fifa is under pressure to strip Qatar of the right to stage the 2022 World Cup after a Sunday Times investigation made allegations of corruption in the bidding process.
The paper alleges that Qatari football chief Mohamed Bin Hammam, who was expelled from Fifa's executive committee in 2011 for financial corruption, paid £3m in bribes to ensure that the tiny Gulf state won the vote in December 2010.
The chairman of the English Football Association, Greg Dyke, has demanded a re-run of the vote for the right to stage the 2022 World Cup if the allegations are proven. With less than two weeks until the start of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Fifa is facing the "deepest crisis" since its foundation in 1904, says The Guardian.
What does the Sunday Times allege?
The paper claims that its "bombshell cache of millions of documents" contains evidence that proves Bin Hammam "used secret slush funds to make dozens of payments totalling more than $5m (£3m) to senior football officials to create a groundswell of support for Qatar's plan to take world football by storm".
Bin Hammam made "dozens of payments of up to $200,000 into accounts controlled by the presidents of 30 African football associations" and hosted "lavish junkets" across the continent where he handed out cash, it says. He also paid $1.6m into accounts controlled by Jack Warner, the Fifa executive committee member for Trinidad and Tobago and president of Concacaf (football's governing body in North America), including $450,000 before the vote.
Bin Hammam is also said to have offered financial support to Oceania executive committee member Reynald Temarii after he was suspended in 2010 for telling undercover reporters that he had been offered $12m for his vote.
Are these allegations new?
Not entirely. Whispers of corruption have surrounded the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar ever since it was made in December 2010.
Details of payments by Bin Hammam to Warner emerged earlier this year. Claims of bribery involving executive committee members including Cameroonian Issa Hayatou were featured in a Panorama documentary aired before the vote in 2010.
A UK Parliamentary inquiry into England's failed bid for the 2018 World Cup 2011 was told that Warner had demanded $4m for an education centre in his country and Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay had asked for an honorary knighthood in exchange for his vote. The inquiry also heard claims that Hayatou and Jacques Anouma of the Ivory Coast had been paid $1.5m each to support Qatar.
However, the Sunday Times claims are the most detailed and damaging yet.
How serious is it?
If you believe the British press then it is very serious. The Guardian says the furore over Qatar has become the biggest crisis in Fifa's 110-year history. The Sunday Times claims "go far beyond simple controversy", it says. "Fifa's rules are clear – the World Cup hosting must not be bought. Just like the trophy itself, it has to be won fairly and openly."
But the weekend's revelations prove one thing, says the Daily Telegraph. "The 2022 World Cup was bought. Of this there can now be no doubt."
The Sunday Times claims: "The revelations threaten to engulf Fifa as it prepares to gather for its annual congress in Brazil on June 10 ahead of the World Cup."
But outside Britain, where Fifa's governance has become something of a bugbear, the story has created fewer waves, and the investigation only warrants a few paragraphs in the European press, mostly focusing on Qatar's rejection of the claims.
How has Fifa responded?
Fifa ethics investigator, Michael Garcia, who is already tasked with investigating 2022 World Cup bidding process, was due to meet Qatari officials in Oman today.
The ethics committee was set up in 2011 after the Fifa presidential election, which was also mired in controversy and corruption allegations involving Bin Hammam. However, it cannot overturn the decision to award the World Cup to Qatar, and it will report its findings on bribery and corruption back to the executive committee, the very body it is investigating.
Australian politician Nick Xenophon told ABC: "The ethics committee code was rewritten to say that the executive committee doesn't ever have to reveal what the ethics committee says to it... transparency and accountability when it comes to Fifa only goes so far."
There remains a degree of scepticism that Fifa will conduct a thorough inquiry into the allegations. John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee, told Sky Sports that his own experience of dealing with Fifa leaves him little optimism. "My committee examined allegations two years ago that there had been corrupt payments involved in the decision, and we called for a full, transparent investigation. However, since then, Fifa have attempted to brush off the allegations and not taken them anything like sufficiently seriously."
What does Qatar say?
"Qatar strongly denies any wrongdoing and insists that Bin Hammam never had any official role supporting the bid and always acted independently from the Qatar 2022 campaign," says the BBC.
A statement issued by the Qatari World Cup committee denied the allegations. It said: "We are cooperating fully with Mr Garcia's ongoing investigation and remain totally confident that any objective inquiry will conclude we won the bid to host the 2022 Fifa World Cup fairly."
Does Qatar face other challenges?
Claims of corruption at Fifa are just the tip of the iceberg for Qatar, and earlier this month Blatter admitted that awarding the tournament to the Gulf state may have been a "mistake".
Temperatures in the northern hemisphere summer, when the tournament is usually held, reach 50C meaning that the event may have to be held in the winter-time, something that would cause chaos in Europe's domestic leagues, and could have serious commercial ramifications for TV companies.
Alcohol is not freely available in the Gulf state and there have already been warnings that fans will be ordered to dress conservatively.
Qatar also has an appalling human rights record and homosexuality is banned. The plight of migrant workers in the Gulf state has also been highlighted amid claims of forced labour and conditions amounting to slavery.
What happens now?
The Sunday Times is promising more revelations in the weeks ahead and the pressure on Fifa to rerun the vote is growing. The fact that the tournament is eight years away means there is plenty of time to go through the process again. The Olympics, for example, are only awarded to the host city seven years in advance. ·