Corruption allegations against Qatar have prompted calls for a fresh vote on which country should host the 2022 World Cup, with one of football’s most prominent figures saying that Australia remained the best candidate.
The calls came after Britain’s Sunday Times said it had obtained millions of emails, accounts and documents from a “senior FIFA insider” relating to alleged payments totalling $US5 million by Mohamed bin Hammam, a Qatari former FIFA executive committee member.
FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce and England’s Football Association chairman Greg Dyke voiced their support for a new vote if the allegations can be proved.
The report claimed Bin Hammam, also a former Asian Football Confederation president, used slush funds to pay cash to top football officials to win a “groundswell” of support for Qatar’s World Cup bid – ahead of rivals the US, Japan, South Korea and Australia.
Qatar’s organising committee has “vehemently” denied all allegations of wrong-doing, insisting bin Hammam played no official or unofficial role in the bid.
“We will take whatever steps are necessary to defend the integrity of Qatar’s bid and our lawyers are looking into this matter,” it said in a statement.
FIFA is already investigating the 2010 vote that awarded the 2022 showpiece to Qatar and the 2018 event to Russia following previous corruption accusations.
A report by chief investigator Michael Garcia, a top US lawyer, is to be finalised this year. Mr Garcia was scheduled to meet with Qatari bid officials on Monday in Oman.
But calls for the World Cup to be stripped from Qatar are growing louder, with both FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce and England’s Football Association chairman Greg Dyke voicing their support for a new vote if the allegations can be proved.
Former England striker Gary Lineker, now a broadcaster with the BBC, agreed, and came out in support of Australia as the best host.
I think FIFA need another vote. The best candidate for 2022, given 2018 is in Europe was, and still is, Australia.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 1, 2014
However Football Federation Australia boss David Gallop said it was too early to say whether the latest development would open the door for a fresh bid from Australia.
“It’s a bit of a watch-this-space at this stage,” Gallop told SEN on Monday.
“We need to get more information about what’s been revealed in the last 48 hours.
“But don’t be under any illusion that we haven’t been heavily involved in all of this for some time now.
“We’ve been involved in interviews, production of documents and also following carefully what’s been happening away from Australia.”
Australia spent $43 million – much of it taxpayers’ money – on its bid for the 2022 World Cup and officials were shattered when they received only one vote as Qatar dominated.
Former FFA employee Bonita Mersiades, who has been critical of aspects of the Australian bid, said on the ABC’s 7.30 program on Monday that there should be a re-run of the 2022 vote because it was the only way fans and players could be satisfied that the process was clean.
She said the evidence against Qatar seemed “compelling” and pointed out that bin Hamman had also run election campaigns for FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who she said should resign or be forced out by the 209 member nations.
The revelations about the way bin Hammam used hospitality, gifts, perks, and upgrades of stadiums to win bid support has parallels with the manner in which Australia used some of its funds.
But she also cautioned that Australia courted the same officials as Qatar, including Trinidad and Tobago’s Jack Warner, who was given $500,000 for a stadium upgrade. She said the money ended up in his personal bank account.
Earlier on Monday, Ms Mersiades told Fairfax: “The revelations in the Sunday Times about the way bin Hammam used hospitality, gifts, perks, and upgrades of stadiums to win bid support has parallels with the manner in which Australia used some of its funds during its bidding campaign. Just look at the FFA funds that landed in Warner’s account and which have never been recovered.”
Asked on 7.30 if the Australian bid was clean, Ms Mersiades said that FFA’s bid was probably also being investigated by Mr Garcia, along with the other bidders for 2022 and the bidders for 2018, which was won by Russia.