French Magazine Claims Qatar Bought 2022 World Cup, UEFA President Calls Report 'Lies'
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).