World Cup Chief, Family Paid Millions By Qatari Firm Ahead Of 2022 World Cup Bid
A senior FIFA official and his family "were paid" almost $2M from a Qatari firm "linked to the country’s successful bid for the 2022 World Cup," according to Newell, Watt, Duffin, Bryant & Good of the London TELEGRAPH. Former FIFA VP Jack Warner "appears to have been personally paid" $1.2M from a company controlled by a former Qatari football official "shortly after the decision to award the country the tournament." Documents show that payments totaling almost $750,000 "were made to Warner’s sons." Another $400,000 "was paid to one of his employees." The FBI "is now investigating" Trinidad-based Warner and his alleged links to the Qatari bid. Warner's eldest son, who lives in Miami, "has been helping the inquiry as a co-operating witness" (TELEGRAPH, 3/17). In London, Owen Gibson wrote Warner received the money from a company controlled by former Asian Football Confederation President Mohamed Bin Hammam in Dec. '10. Bin Hammam was the most senior Qatari football official inside FIFA "at the time of the flawed bidding race to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments." He "was later banned from football for life after evidence emerged that he had bribed senior officials at the Caribbean Football Union at the height of a bitter battle" for the presidency with the incumbent, Sepp Blatter. That ban was annulled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but he was later banned again over "conflicts of interest" while president of the AFC (GUARDIAN, 3/17). Also in London, Roger Blitz wrote one document reportedly said payments are to "offset legal and other expenses" related to other matters. A separate letter apparently stated more than $1M covers "professional services provided over the period 2005-2010" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 3/18).
WARNER DISMISSES CLAIM: The PA reported Warner "has dismissed the latest allegations" against him as "foolishness" and insists there is a "witch hunt" against the 2022 World Cup. Warner: "I have no interest in joining in the foolishness that is now passing as news on Qatar and Jack Warner. Nor do I intend to join those who are on a witch hunt against the World Cup 2022 venue. And do consider this as my final comment on this matter" (PA, 3/18).
'DISTURBING' EVIDENCE: In London, Ben Rumsby wrote England 2018 CEO Simon Johnson described the evidence as "very disturbing." Johnson said, "This is a very disturbing piece of evidence that the Daily Telegraph has found and it is right and proper that FIFA fully considers the evidence that has been uncovered and that any evidence which is in any way relevant to the award of the 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cup is made available to the investigation being conducted by Mr. Michael Garcia" (TELEGRAPH, 3/18). REUTERS' Matt Smith wrote Qatar's 2022 World Cup organizing committee "has denied being aware of any alleged payment" by Bin Hammam to Warner. Qatar's organizing committee "has always denied any wrongdoing and on Tuesday again reiterated that its practices were above board." The committee said in a statement, "The 2022 Bid Committee strictly adhered to FIFA's bidding regulations in compliance with their code of ethics" (REUTERS, 3/18). In London, Watt, Bryant, Newell & Rumsby reported Senior MPs have said that FIFA "should launch an inquiry into the revelations and that the organisation should also consider stripping the Gulf state of the right to host the tournament" (TELEGRAPH, 3/18).
NO SURPRISE: In London, Jim White wrote "the most depressing thing about the news" is that no one can have been remotely surprised. Dismayed, dispirited, "angered certainly." But "surprised?" Not "a chance." From the moment Blatter stood on the stage at FIFA headquarters and announced that Qatar was to host the world’s second most significant sporting event, "everyone watching assumed there had to be a reason behind the most absurd decision the body had ever taken, a decision which, when filtered through the normal laws of logic, made absolutely no sense whatsoever." And now "we have apparent confirmation of what that reason was." As was suspected from the start, "it is all about money" (TELEGRAPH, 3/17). Also in London, Mihir Bose wrote the allegation "is shocking but comes as little surprise." This latest story proves that "this, the most controversial World Cup decision in FIFA history, was fundamentally flawed and needs to be reopened." Even before Warner and his 21 fellow exec members "sat down to vote in FIFA’s plush headquarters in Zurich in December 2010 they had before them a report by their own evaluation commission that a World Cup in the heat of a Qatari summer would be impossible." And in recent months "horrific stories have emerged from Qatar as to the conditions of the labourers on the sites that will form an essential part of Qatar’s World Cup." FIFA’s response to all this "has been the classic pose of the ostrich in the sand" (EVENING STANDARD, 3/18).
AUSSIE PIPE DREAM: Also in London, Henry Winter wrote Australia bid for the right to host but was "outmuscled by Qatar, who won by a bizarre landslide," ahead of the U.S., South Korea and (separately) Japan. It "was laughable that such a serious bid as Australia should finish last." It summed up FIFA's tainted voting system "that the most legitimate bid went out in the first round." FIFA argued that "the competition should go to a nation where it would nourish football's roots." Australia craves "soccer" games. The "enormous crowds" that ManU and Liverpool pulled in last summer respectively in Sydney (83,127) and Melbourne (95,446) "highlights the passion." FIFA could "remove the tournament from Qatar." It is "a pipe-dream of course because the pipe is full of gas and oil." Qatar 2022 "will make FIFA fortunes" (TELEGRAPH, 3/18). In Sydney, Ray Gatt wrote Football Federation Australia Chair Frank Lowy believed that "the stench" surrounding the bidding process for the 2022 World Cup is “not going to go away." Lowy said he had continued to follow the developments “very closely” and still remained hopeful FIFA will hand back the money that was spent on the bid (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/19).