x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Qatar 2022 denies any wrongdoing in World Cup bid as Fifa crisis deepens

After a leaked e-mail from Fifa's general secretary made the claim that it had "bought" hosting rights for the tournament, Qatar says it will take legal advice.

The Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke confirmed that an e-mail sent by him with claims that Qatar had
The Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke confirmed that an e-mail sent by him with claims that Qatar had "bought" hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup was genuine.

ZURICH // Organisers of the Qatar 2022 World Cup denied any wrongdoing in its bid to stage the tournament, after a leaked e-mail from Fifa's general secretary made the claim that it had "bought" hosting rights for the tournament.

"Qatar 2022 categorically deny any wrongdoing in connection with their winning bid," a statement released by a bid spokesman said.

"We are urgently seeking clarification from Fifa about the statement from their general secretary. In the meantime we are taking legal advice to consider our options."

Fifa plunged deeper into crisis today when Jerome Valcke, its general secretary, confirmed that he sent a private e-mail suggesting Qatar had "bought" the right to host the 2022 World Cup.

Valcke, who as general secretary of world football's governing body is president Sepp Blatter's right-hand man, also confirmed that the email made public by the vice-president Jack Warner was genuine.

According to Warner, the Concacaf president under provisional suspension from all football activity, the email referred to Mohamed bin Hammam, the AFC president, who was at that time a candidate to stand against Blatter in the presidential election.

"For MBH, I never understood why he was running," Warner quoted the email from Valcke as saying. "If really he thought he had a chance or just being an extreme way to express how much he does not like anymore JSB [Blatter].

"Or he thought you can buy Fifa as they bought the WC [World Cup]."

Bin Hammam withdrew from the presidential race before the ethics committee suspended him and Warner yesterday.

The committee decided both men had cases to answer over allegations that the Qatari paid bribes to Caribbean officials to vote for him in Wednesday's election instead of Blatter.

Valcke told reporters in Zurich today he did send the email but that Warner had only published selected parts of it.

"It was a private e-mail and we will discuss it," Valcke said ahead of the Fifa congress which starts tomorrow.

"He sent me an e-mail asking if I want that [Bin Hammam to run]. He said that I should ask Bin Hammam to pull out."

Also today, an Australian senator demanded a refund from Fifa on the US$48.8 million (Dh179.2m) the country spent on its bid for the 2022 World Cup, won by Qatar.

Earlier this month, Qatar's World Cup bid team strongly denied allegations, made by a British member of parliament, that it had paid two exco members to vote for the Gulf nation.

Blatter, the 75-year-old Swiss, is due to address a news conference today.

He is set to stand unopposed for a fourth term in charge of Fifa on Wednesday amid widespread calls for reform of the organisation, which has been dogged by allegations of corruption.

Problems have been stacking up for Fifa and Blatter, who was cleared of any wrong doing in the bribes-for-votes hearing yesterday, since the vote to stage the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Last November, exco members Reynald Temarii and Amos Adamu were banned over allegations that they agreed to sell their votes in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting contest to undercover newspaper reporters.

In total, 10 of the 24 members of the powerful executive committee have been subject to allegations of corruption in the last year.

Questioned by reporters yesterday, Valcke had agreed that Fifa was facing "a watershed moment", drawing comparisons with the International Olympic Committee's crisis when IOC delegates were found guilty of taking bribes for votes to award the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake City.

During Blatter's 13 years in charge, Fifa has grown rich through sales of TV rights, sponsorship and merchandising opportunities and currently boasts reserves of over US$1 billion.