x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 September 2017

Website says report of letter asking to strip Qatar of World Cup was fake

Founder of The Local Europe says a story saying six Arab nations had requested Fifa to change 2022 World Cup host was fabricated.

Sepp Blatter reveals Qatar's selection as the 2022 World Cup host nation on December 2, 2010. Walter Bieri / Keystone / AP
Sepp Blatter reveals Qatar's selection as the 2022 World Cup host nation on December 2, 2010. Walter Bieri / Keystone / AP

A European news website has denied publishing an article saying six Arab nations had written a letter to Fifa demanding that Qatar is stripped of its World Cup.

James Savage, founder of The Local Europe, said a story circulated earlier on Sunday and made to appear as if it had been published on his website, was fabricated.

The article, doctored to look like it came from The Local's website, claimed that the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt along with Yemen and Mauritania wrote to Fifa. The report claimed the six countries had asked football's governing body to remove Qatar as host of the 2022 Fifa World Cup, citing Article 85 of the Fifa code, which allowed for such action in the case of an emergency.

“Our investigation so far indicated the article appeared on a fake site designed to look like The Local, and never appeared on The Local’s own site,” Mr Savage said.

He said they have searched the records and found “there is no trace of it in our system, nor any evidence that anyone tried to access our content management system.”

The article is believed to have been doctored and falsely attributed to the news website which has editions in several countries, including Switzerland where Fifa is headquartered.

Reuters published an article using the story as a source and adding that “a source familiar with the Qatari government's World Cup activities said Qatar is aware the Saudis and others are engaged in such a move.”

It is unclear who was behind the fabricated story. 

Fifa said its president “has never received such a letter and subsequently has not made any comment on that.”

They added that the World Cup governing body is in regular contact with the Qatar 2022 Local Organising Committee and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy handling matters relating to the 2022 Fifa World Cup.

The Arab countries have cut ties with Qatar since June 5 accusing Doha of financing terrorism and increasing ties with Iran.

In December 2010, Doha won the rights to host the 2022 World Cup becoming the first Arab nation to do so in the process. The event, however, has been marred with controversy regarding worker’s conditions and allegations of corruption.