x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Relief for Qatar after being cleared of collusion

Fifa, the sport's governing body, cleared the Spain-Portugal World Cup bid for 2018 and the Qatar World Cup bid for 2022 of collusion.

DOHA // On the day after Qatar held an ebullient football celebration, word came from Zurich that it still might get the chance to conduct another.

Scarcely had the 52,000-odd fans exited Khalifa International Stadium from the Argentina-Brazil friendly match on Wednesday night when Fifa, the sport’s governing body, yesterday cleared the Spain-Portugal World Cup bid for 2018 and the Qatar World Cup bid for 2022 of collusion.

“This puts an end to the rumours and hearsay which have dominated the agenda in recent weeks,” Hassan al Thawadi, the Qatar bid chief executive who had cancelled a question-and-answer appearance slated for Monday at a Doha sport conference, said of the result: “We have maintained a dignified silence to allow Fifa to deal with this issue.”

In clearing both Spain-Portugal and Qatar of allegations of vote-swapping, Claudio Sulser, the Fifa ethics committee chairman, also announced the reduction of the voters from 24 to 22.

Fifa suspended from football Amos Adamu of Nigeria for three years and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti for one stemming from a Sunday Times of London report that they agreed to accept bribes staged by reporters in apparent exchange for favourable votes.

The remaining 22 will decide on December 2 in Zurich between four bidders for the 2018 World Cup and five for 2022, candidacies that will include both Spain-Portugal for the first decision and Qatar for the second.

“We didn’t find sufficient grounds to reach the conclusion that there was any collusion,” Sulser said in his announcement, “therefore we didn’t move forward on that case.”

He added, “It’s hard to prove collusion.”

Said al Thawadi in Doha, “We were always confident of this outcome because we have conducted ourselves throughout the campaign adhering to the highest ethical standards.”

cculpepper@thenational.ae