In Brief

Qatar World Cup bid ‘sabotaged’ rivals

2022 winning team hired ex-CIA agents and PR firm used ‘black ops’ that broke Fifa rules

Qatar’s World Cup bid team deliberately “sabotaged” their rivals using “black operations” which broke Fifa rules, reports suggest.

According to documents passed to The Sunday Times, the bid paid a public relations firm and former CIA agents to pump out fake propaganda about its main rivals, the US and Australia, during its successful campaign to host the tournament in 2022.

The Qatari operation included a campaign to attack respective bids in their own countries, creating the impression there was zero public support for hosting the World Cup domestically – a key consideration of Fifa.

According to emails leaked by a whistleblower, a team of former CIA agents recruited journalists, bloggers and other influential figures to hype up negative stories, spy on rivals, produce intelligence reports on key people and create grassroots protests.

The revelations “appear to be a flagrant breach of the rules set down for bidding countries by Fifa”, says The Sunday Times, and will add to growing calls for Qatar to be stripped of its right to host the event.

They follow extensive evidence of corruption in the bidding process that centred on payments to football officials by Mohamed bin Hammam, Qatar’s top Fifa representative.

Qatar’s 2022 World Cup has long been mired in controversy, with the high number of deaths that have resulted from the construction of stadiums putting the Gulf state “under harsh global scrutiny” says News.com.au.

According to a report published by the International Trades Union Confederation, approximately 1,200 workers have died since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar in 2010.

To put that in context, seven workers were killed working during construction for the 2014 Brazil World Cup and none for the London Olympics.

The decision to hand the bid to Qatar has also faced criticism within football circles. With summer temperatures reaching 50C, it has been announced the tournament will now take place during the cooler winter months, causing huge disruption to domestic league schedules.

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