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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 March 2019

Qatar promised Fifa $100m if it won World Cup hosting rights

Documents show offer 'was made three weeks before 2022 tournament vote'

Paris Saint-Germain's Qatari president Nasser Al Khelaifi. AFP
Paris Saint-Germain's Qatari president Nasser Al Khelaifi. AFP

Qatari broadcasters offered almost $900 million to Fifa at crucial points in Doha’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup, leaked documents show.

Documents obtained by The Sunday Times showed that Al Jazeera offered to pay $400m to world football’s governing body three weeks before Qatar emerged in 2010 as the surprise winner in the race to host the tournament.

The payments included an offer for a $100m non-refundable fee but only if Qatar became the host nation ahead of South Korea, the US, Japan and Australia.

The signed agreement said that the money would be paid into a designated Fifa account in “the event that the 2022 competition is awarded to the state of Qatar” as a “non-refundable contribution towards the costs of the host broadcast production of the 2022 competition”.

Another $480m offer to broadcast the 2026 and 2030 tournaments was offered by beIN Sports, an arm of Al Jazeera, during the final stages of a corruption inquiry by Fifa’s ethics investigator Michael Garcia.

Seven months later, Fifa published a summary version of Mr Garcia’s final report, which found that Qatar had not bought votes.

Its successful bid was driven by then Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad, who also owned and controlled Al Jazeera.

British MPs on Sunday called for the payments, which were described as “peculiar” by one football finance expert, to be investigated.

Damian Collins, chairman of a UK parliamentary committee that investigated Fifa over allegedly corrupt payments, called for cash from Al Jazeera to be frozen because the contract “appears to be in clear breach of the rules”.

Nasser Al Khelaifi, chairman of Paris Saint-Germain and chief executive of beIN, is already under investigation over suspicions of bribery, fraud, forgery and criminal mismanagement by authorities in Switzerland.

Mr Al Khelaifi is suspected of having bribed Fifa’s former secretary general Jerome Valcke for broadcasting rights to the 2026 and 2030 tournaments. Fifa later banned Mr Valcke from football for 10 years over ethics breaches.

A Swiss team is running 25 investigations and the country’s attorney general said that some of them could be resolved in 2019 by being closed or sent to court.

Details of the $100m fee first emerged early last year in a book by Bonita Mersiades, a member of Australia’s failed 2022 bid.

Ms Mersiades wrote that Fifa executives were worried about potential low revenues if the tournament were played in Qatar but their fears were assuaged when the “bonus payment” was agreed to.

“Peculiar is probably a very good way of describing it,” said football finance expert Rob Wilson, of Sheffield Hallam University. “The $100m wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility if a particular bid was successful but it naturally raises questions marks because of the origins of that particular organisation.

"And the size of payments are enormous.”

A beIN spokesman said the company would not “respond to unsubstantiated or wildly speculative allegations.”

Qatar’s preparations for the tournament has been dogged by accusations of corruption and controversy over the treatment of workers building international football stadiums from nothing.

Updated: March 11, 2019 09:37 AM

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