Jun 1 2014, 4:00pm CDT | by Forbes
The Sunday Times story of “Mohamed bin Hamman’s secret campaign to bring the World Cup to the Gulf,” is another episode in a narrative that that will not die.
The series of articles published earlier today details the lengths that Bin Hamman, a former FIFA vice-president, is accused of going to in order to secure the rights to the 2022 World Cup for his country.
Qatar has continually rejected accusations that Bin Hamman had any official role in the Qatar 2022 bid committee and further, that the successful bid was won by illegal means.
Bin Hamman was banned by FIFA in 2011 after being accused of bribing CONCACAF officials as part of his bid to unseat FIFA President Sepp Blatter. CONCACAF President and FIFA vice-president Jack Warner was snared in the same trap and resigned in 2011 before FIFA could act to ban him.
The Sunday Times claim that the latest revelations have been sourced through a FIFA insider who provided the London-based paper with “hundreds of millions documents” showing secret payments totaling “more than” $5M by Bin Hamman to “senior football officials” in a bid to help Qatar to win the right to host the World Cup in 2022.
The level of detail quoted in the series of articles is astounding and could only have been attained by someone at the highest levels of FIFA and someone with contacts and informants from around the globe.
The allegations come on the eve of a meeting between Michael Garcia and Qatar officials. Garcia is a US attorney tasked in July 2012 by the FIFA executive to investigate ethics abuse within the world governing body.
In addition, Qatar has been under intense scrutiny for its human rights record and for lax workplace health and safety practices that have led to scores of construction workers being killed or injured in the Gulf State.
Then there is the issue of when the tournament will actually be played.
The Qatar bid for 2022 was based on a June-July schedule as were the other bids from Australia, Japan, South Korea and the USA. Since the award in 2010 the claim by Qatar that the stadiums would be air conditioned to cool the 50 degree summer heat has been found to be about as possible as their team winning the World Cup in 2014.
A move to a “winter” schedule is now seen as the only viable option if players and spectators are to participate and attend in a safe environment. But even then there are significant problems. A change in season will require an extensive shut down of some of the world’s major leagues – particularly in Europe – and there is also the 2022 Winter Olympics to consider. (Bidders for that event are dropping like players in Qatar summer heat but that is another story for another day.)
While complaints from European leagues might receive short shrift and be waved off as if coming from brats, it is harder to do the same to broadcasters who deliver hundreds of millions of dollars to the FIFA treasury each cycle.
A decision on the 2022 schedule may be made in March of next year but the Sunday Times’ bombshell, Garcia’s on-going investigation and discontent from wealthy leagues and broadcasters may derail the timeline.
The 2022 bid was the first time that a decision was made in conjunction with another decision – in this case the host for 2018. It meant that rather than the normal 7-year cycle from award to kick-off, Qatar actually were given 12 years to prepare.
Although the original logic was highly flawed it may yet prove to be a god-send if a re-vote is needed. If such a re-vote was sanctioned and complete before the end of 2015 the winning bid would only have 12 months less than normal to prepare and to bring their plans to fruition.
Since the story was published there have been countless calls for such a re-vote. There have also been countless conclusions jumped to and based on nothing more than cursory reviews of the story about the story.
Do the allegations actually point to a smoking-gun that can be placed in the hands of the Qatar 2022 bid group or is it a case of an individual operating outside of the official group? (Yes, the latter does seem highly implausible but nonetheless allegations need to be proved.)/>/>
For a vote to be re-run it would seem that one or more of the FIFA executive committee (FIFA exco) that voted in December 2010 would have to admit or it would be need to be shown conclusively, that a vote(s) were bought.
In December 2010 twenty-four votes should have been cast but two exco members had already been disbarred. The voting went four rounds before Qatar beat the US by 14 votes to 8.
There are two specific allegations made by the Sunday Times that have the potential to bring the Qatar award crashing down.
The first relates to one of the disbarred exco members, FIFA vice president for Oceania Reynald Temario. Temario had been found guilty of offering his vote for cash and had been banned a couple of months before the original vote.
A replacement for the disgraced member from Oceania was then appointed but Temario took legal action that delayed and ultimately stymied the appointment of his replacement.
It now seems that the legal manoeuvrings and interference was funded by Bin Hamman.
The other matter relates to Bin Hamman’s relationship with slippery Jack Warner. The Sunday Times claims that money flowed from Bin Hamman to the FIFA vice-president and CONCACAF president before the vote in December 2010.
However, given that the votes were by secret ballot it may prove difficult to prove that votes were bought without someone singing.
The Sunday Times story also included a litany of allegations regarding payments and trips and gifts authorized by Bin Hamman and provided to assorted African nations. The degree and the possible impact of these allegations varies considerably.
Funding projects in other nations by bidders was common practice as were offers of technical assistance and on occasion friendly internationals. No one is lily white.
But there may yet be more insidious arrangements and agreements that might lead to FIFA exco members and how votes may have been influenced.
The Sunday Times is saying that they have much more to come. If the Sunday Times can show a trail then it would do huge damage to the Qatar 2022 award. There again, someone might have to come forward for such an allegation to stick.
Of course this is all being played out against the backdrop of the 2014 World Cup that is only days away. Before the June 12th opening game there will also be the 64th FIFA Congress in Sao Paulo on June 10 and 11. After the 2014 tournament is concluded there will be a number (five are scheduled) of FIFA exco meetings before the 65th FIFA Congress set for Zurich May 28 and 29.
The Zurich meeting will see a vote to replace or reconfirm FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
Then there is the other side of the coin – the energy rich Qataris who will not sit idle while the 2022 World Cup slips through their grasp.
Any such possibly could lead to years of costly and destructive litigation./>/>
And finally there is the mutually assured destruction option. FIFA re-votes and pulls the 2022 World Cup from Qatar; Qatar wins legal battle; major countries opt out of the 2022 World Cup.
What a mess.
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