ABU DHABI // The corruption scandal engulfing football's governing body cast a shadow yesterday over Qatar's successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup and the benefits to the wider region that come with it.
Mudslinging and bitter personal attacks among senior officials continued ahead of tomorrow's vote on the presidency of Fifa. Sepp Blatter is expected to be re-elected unopposed after the suspension of his only rival, Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar, pending an investigation into allegations of bribery.
Last night a defiant Mr Blatter declared: "What shall we do? Nothing. The World Cup 2022 is not touched." Earlier in the day, however, Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke confirmed an e-mail he sent to the vice-president Jack Warner suggesting Qatar had "bought" the right to host the 2022 tournament.
Describing Mr bin Hammam's campaign to be president of Fifa, Mr Valcke wrote: "I never understood why he was running. If really he thought he had a chance, or … he thought you can buy Fifa as they bought the World Cup."
Mr Valcke insisted yesterday he was referring to Qatar using financial muscle to lobby legitimately for votes. "They were a candidate with a very important budget and used it to heavily promote their bid all around the world in a very efficient manner," he said. "I have made no reference to any purchase of votes or similar unethical behaviour."
Nevertheless, two major World Cup sponsors demanded Fifa end the infighting. A spokesman for Coca Cola said: "The allegations are distressing and bad for the sport." And a spokesman for Adidas said: "The negative tenor of the public debate around Fifa at the moment is neither good for football nor good for Fifa and its partners."
Mr Hammam, 62, president of the Asian Football Confederation, was suspended by the organisation's ethics committee on Sunday, along with three other officials - among them Mr Warner. They are accused of offering bribes to other officials to secure the Fifa presidency for Mr bin Hammam. Mr Blatter was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Mr Warner responded to his suspension by alleging that Mr Blatter had given $1 million to a regional football confederation this month "to spend as it deems fit, no questions asked", and releasing the e-mail from Mr Valcke.
Qatar 2022's bid team said they "categorically deny" any wrongdoing, and asked for clarification from Fifa on the meaning of the Valcke e-mail. "In the meantime we are taking legal advice to consider our options," they said. The team earlier rejected allegations of impropriety made in the UK parliament, in a British newspaper and by the former chairman of the Football Association in England.
Nevertheless, the scandal has raised concerns over $10 billion of investment and development contracts related to stadiums and hotels for the World Cup in Qatar.