Having granted the World Cup to South Africa in 2010 and Russia in 2018, it is clear that FIFA are on a mission to further diversify access to this sacred tournament; a move which has heralded much support from fans and officials globally. In order to maintain this integral ethos, a Middle Eastern candidate for 2022 seemed natural; enthusiasm for and development of the game has been growing in this troubled region for many years, with nations such as Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia experiencing previously unmatched successes. When, however, it was announced that Qatar (a tiny oil-rich monarchy of no more than 1.7 million people) was to host the tournament eyebrows were justifiably raised, with controversy over the decision beginning right from the off. Since the establishment of the Qatari FA in 1970, the national team has failed to qualify for any World Cup, advance further than the quarter finals in the Asian Cup, and currently stands at 95th in the FIFA Rankings: clear signs of a weak footballing nation both culturally and officially. Other challengers for the World Cup 2022 bid (Like Australia and the US) were deemed far more appropriate by commentators but were overlooked.
Fingers were pointed almost from the beginning as to why this occurred. Corruption was an immediate assumption, with allegations being made as early as 2011 that representatives from Trinidad and Tobago, Paraguay, Cameroon and the Ivory Coast had all demanded payments of up to $4million for their votes. At the centre of this apparent bribery of officials is Qatari Mohammed Bin Hammam, former president of Asian Football Confederation and FIFA Executive Committee member, who was credited publicly for aiding his home nation winning the World Cup Bid, the integrity of which now appears invalid.
This month however corruption claims have once again resurfaced, with The Daily Telegraph claiming to have received leaked emails from none other than footballs shiftiest character; Bin Hammam. These fresh accusations go further than just bribing officials; a trade deal regarding gas was supposedly brokered between Qatar and Thailand in the months prior to the 2022 decision. Whilst on the surface this appears mundane and disconnected to football, the men at the heart of this deal were direct advisors to the Thai FA president Worawi Makudi and Hammam. What is possibly more unsettling though, is the use of former footballing icons in order to sway support for the bid. A leaked email sent by George Weah, former Ballon d’Or winner, African sporting hero and notorious proponent of Qatar hosting the World Cup, shows him passing on his bank details to Bin Hammam’s Assistant. Moreover, it has been revealed that UEFA Michael Platini held a secretive meeting with Bin Hammam on the eve of the vote which despite his transparency regarding his choice to vote for Qatar, appears suspicious.
FIFA is currently investigating the legitimacy of these corruption accusations, with an official report expected in July. Should they be proven true, a re-vote is the most likely course of action to be taken, one which would see Qatar stripped of its right to host the tournament. Understandably FIFA president Sepp Blatter is reluctant to hasten the organisation into a re-vote, as to do so would result in monumental embarrassment. Granting the honour of hosting the World Cup to Qatar in 2010 alone was a terrible idea, yet these allegations of corruption, especially should they prove to be true, have merely added fuel to the fire of discontent with regards to the workings of this once respected organisation.