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Sunday, Jun 1, 2014

Sports

Qatari paid millions for World Cup bid support: Report

AFP | Sunday, Jun 1, 2014

Mohamed Bin Hammam

LONDON - A former top Qatari football official paid more than US$5 million to get support for the emirate's controversial campaign to host the 2022 World Cup, a British newspaper alleged Sunday.

The Sunday Times said it had obtained millions of emails and other documents relating to alleged payments made by Mohamed Bin Hammam, then a FIFA executive member for Qatar.

It alleged that Bin Hammam, who is also an ex-Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president, used slush funds to pay cash to top football officials to win a "groundswell" of support for Qatar's World Cup bid.

Bin Hammam, who launched an abortive challenge against incumbent FIFA president Sepp Blatter, resigned from his FIFA and AFC posts in 2012, shortly before he was banned for life from football administration by the global governing body's ethics committee.

Football's world governing body FIFA is investigating the 2010 vote that awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar and the 2018 tournament to Russia, following previous corruption accusations.

A report by FIFA chief investigator Michael Garcia, a top US lawyer, is to be finalised this year.

He is due to meet senior officials from the Qatar 2022 organising committee in Oman on Monday. But that meeting may now have to be postponed in light of the Sunday Times revelations.

FIFA and Qatar are already under pressure because the 2022 event will be held in the searing heat of the Qatar summer. FIFA's president wants the tournament held in the northern winter, for the first time, because of the problem.

British media have made repeated allegations about the Qatar campaign to secure the tournament however.

The Sunday Times said Bin Hammam had made payments of up to US$200,000 into accounts controlled by the presidents of 30 African football associations, and hosted hospitality events in Africa at which he handed out further funds, to get backing for Qatar's bid.

Bin Hammam also paid US$1.6 million into bank accounts controlled by Jack Warner, the former vice-president of FIFA, US$450,000 of which was before the vote for the World Cup, the Sunday Times said.

Warner was one of the 22 people who in 2010 decided to award Russia the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 tournament. He stood down in 2011.

More pressure

The latest allegations come two months after Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper alleged that a company owned by Hammam had paid money to Warner.

Bin Hammam did not respond to questions from the Sunday Times and his son declined to comment on his behalf, the newspaper said.

It quoted the Qatari committee behind the World Cup bid as denying that Bin Hammam played any secret role in their campaign, or had any knowledge of the alleged payments.

The decision to give the World Cup to Qatar, a country with little football history, provoked widespread condemnation particularly over health concerns for leading players forced to play in the desert nation's stifling summer heat.

Blatter said in May that it was a mistake to choose Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup because of the country's sweltering summertime climate.

The new allegations will place FIFA under fresh pressure to re-run the vote for the 2022 World Cup, which was held in conjunction with the vote for the 2018 tournament.

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