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Volume 10 No. 22

International Football

Paris magazine France Football published a 15-page report titled "Qatargate" where it accuses the Middle Eastern country of buying the 2022 World Cup, according to Paul Kennedy of SOCCER AMERICA. The accusations "aren't exactly revelatory but they are numerous." Below are some highlights of the France Football report:

  • The votes of Confederation of African Football President Issa Hayatou (Cameroon) and Jacques Anouma (Ivory Coast) "were bought for $1.5M apiece." However, the whistle-blower, former Qatari bid employee Phaedra Al Majid, "mysteriously retracted" her claims saying she made everything up.
  • Qatar "sponsored" the 2010 African confederation congress for a sum of $1.25M to "gain exclusive access" to the four Africans on the FIFA exec committee.
  • A Qatari representative "offered to spend millions" on pumping up ailing Argentine football to gain the vote of Argentine Julio Grondona.
  • A "sweetheart deal" was made with the Spanish federation (RFEF) to organize a friendly game in Qatar and "silence" RFEF President Angel Maria Villar, who "supposedly had a vote-swapping pact with Qatar to back Spain's 2018 World Cup bid with Portugal and was furious that in fact Russia won the 2018 contest easily."
  • The Qatari sports agency Aspire "spent millions on promoting youth sports" in countries with members on FIFA's exec committee.

However, no one interviewed by France Football "thought the decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup would be overturned." Qatargate lingers in part because Qatar 2022 "made no sense in the first place." Kennedy opined, "How do you organize a World Cup in a country where the summer temperatures top 110 degrees?" Qatar presented plans to air condition the dozen stadiums it plans to build, but as the U.S. representative on the exec committee Chuck Blazer remarked, "I don't see how you can air-condition an entire country" (SOCCER AMERICA, 1/29). LE MONDE noted the report also brought up "a secret meeting" on Nov. 23, 2010, about 10 days before the FIFA vote, between then French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Qatari Prince Tamin bin Hamad al-Thani, UEFA President Michel Platini and a representative of the then owners of PSG Sébastien Bazin. The report claims that the meeting was about "the purchase of PSG by the Qataris (which happened in June '11) and the creation of a sports channel (beIN Sport) to rival Canal+, which Sarkozy wanted to weaken." In exchange, "Platini would not vote for the United States like he had envisioned, but for Qatar" (LE MONDE, 1/29).

PLATINI RESPONDS: L'EQUIPE reported Platini "quickly hit out" at the claims and called them "lies." Platini said, "To believe that my choice went to Qatar 2022 in exchange for deals between the French state and Qatar is just pure speculation ... I don't rule out taking anyone to court who questions my integrity in this vote." He added, "As I've always stated, President Sarkozy would never have asked me to vote for Qatar 2022 because he knows that I'm my own man. I made my choice with complete independence following a simple logic ... opening up countries who have never organized major sporting events. With the same concern for transparency, it was me who revealed to the media that a few weeks before the vote I was invited to dinner by Nicolas Sarkozy" (L'EQUIPE, 1/29).

Arsenal will play a preseason friendly against the Indonesia national team in Jakarta "despite FIFA’s continued threat to ban the Southeast Asian team," according to Patrick Johnston of REUTERS. The match will take place on July 14 at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, with the club "also planning further fixtures in Asia" as it continues its commercial push in the EPL-obsessed region. It will be the third year in a row that Arsenal has conducted preseason tours in Asia after Manager Arsene Wenger had "previously favoured taking his squad to mainland Europe for low-key trips." Arsenal will head to "one of the world’s most populated countries" where the EPL is king but the country’s national team and domestic competition is "in a mess because of a power struggle" (REUTERS, 1/29).

An Indian professional football league -- run along the same lines of the franchise-based Indian Premier League cricket tournament -- "has been scrapped due to logistical problems," according to ESPN. The tournament "was set to feature a cast of veteran players" including former Chelsea & AC Milan striker Hernan Crespo, Italy's World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro, former Arsenal winger Robert Pires and ex-Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler alongside local footballers. The league was originally planned to take place in February through March last year, "only to be postponed indefinitely." Indian FA Secretary General Utpal Ganguly said, "The main reasons for not pursuing the project further were logistics like the unavailability of stadia and the backing out of some of the franchises for commercial reasons. Besides, the timing of the league was not suitable for foreign players" (ESPN, 1/29). The AP reported Anilava Chatterjee of private firm Grey Mind, which had bought one of the five franchise teams, said that the problem "lay with getting stadiums in smaller towns of the eastern Indian state of West Bengal." Chatterjee said, "We were told there were problems in getting grounds, especially in the smaller districts, and the project was thus aborted." India-based Celebrity Management Group, which was a partner in the league project, "is contemplating a different league at some point" (AP, 1/29).

Israel President Shimon Peres "has called on the country's football authorities to clamp down on racism after Beitar Jerusalem fans protested against the club's intention to sign two Muslim players," according to Harriet Sherwood of the London GUARDIAN. Peres wrote to the Israel FA on Tuesday: "Racism has struck the Jewish people harder than any other nation in the world … the entire country is shocked by this phenomenon and will never agree to come to terms with it." He called for the chairman to take a "determined stance" on racism in football. Beitar Jerusalem Owner Arcadi Gaydamak said that he "would sign the two players from Terek Grozny, a Chechnyan Russian premier league team, despite the protest." Other Israeli clubs "have, or have had, Arab and Muslim players" (GUARDIAN, 1/29).

The marketing of women's football by national associations was the focus of a workshop in The Hague, Netherlands, held under the auspices of the UEFA Women's Football Development Programme. Within its Women's Football Development Programme, UEFA has answered a number of requests by national associations for assistance in how to market the women's game, and has embarked on an individual assistance plan to help six specific associations -- Scotland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Russia and Austria -- draft a women's football marketing plan. UEFA recommended that the associations focus on their top national league, building a brand identity by, for example, creating a logo for their competition, and through brand activation from perimeter boarding to social media. Clubs are also being encouraged to play an active role in the project. Basic goals include increasing attendance at women's league matches, making the domestic league more attractive and boosting revenue streams in the mid- to long-term future (UEFA).

Each Ghana football player who qualified for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals received $35,000 (AFP, 1/29). ... The Scottish Premier League Trust has been announced as the latest beneficiary of the Scottish Sport Relief Home and Away program. The £214,500 ($337,000) grant will enable almost 1,000 older people across Scotland to attend an activity program at their local SPL club over the next two years (SPL).