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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sports Journalist Asserts Corruption in Qatar’s Winning World Cup Bid

Qatar succeeded in winning its bid to host 2022 World Cup by bribing FIFA Vice President Julio Gondova, promising to build 22 stadiums in developing countries, and getting French President Nicolas Sarkozi to persuade UEFA president Michel Platini to vote on its behalf, according to a prominent German sports journalist.

Thomas Kistner, sports editor of the respected Munich based German newspaper, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, said he will present evidence of his assertions at a conference in early April in Miami on offshore financial centers and serious financial crime.

The sports journalist made his allegations in an email distributed by the conference organizer aimed at persuading readers to register.
Kistner’s allegations are likely to fuel mounting allegations regarding Qatar’s bid, many of which raise as many questions about FIFA’s bidding rules as they do about the propriety of the Gulf state’s winning strategy.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter conceded earlier this month for the first time that Qatar and Spain and Portugal colluded to trade votes for their respective 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids. FIFA had earlier claimed that its investigation had found no evidence of such collusion.

Some of Kistner’s assertions were reported earlier in lesser detail by The Wall Street Journal, which said it had reviewed internal documents of the Qatar bid committee.

FIFA has been hit in recent months by multiple charges of corruption that have already forced the suspension of two of its executive committee members.

Qatar, the first Middle Eastern country to be awarded the right to host the world’s biggest sporting event, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in pursuing the hosting of the 2022 World Cup.

"Accusations have surfaced that a Qatar bid adviser recommended a $78.4 million payment to Argentina for influencing the voting of powerful long-standing FIFA vice president Julio Grondona, head of FIFA's Finance Commission," the Offshore Alert Conference newsletter quoted Kistner as saying.

Kistner said Qatar had also paid the football federations of Argentina and Brazil, whose presidents are FIFA executive committee members, $1 million each to have their national teams play one another in the Qatari capital Doha two weeks before the December 2 , 2011 FIFA vote on the hosting of the 2022 World Cup.

The match attracted few spectators but was attended by French star Zinedine Zidane and former Argentine striker, who each were paid $1 million to support Qatar’s bid.

Qatar was competing for the tournament against bids from the United States, Australia and South Korea.

"Two weeks before Election Day, Qatar invited the Argentine national team to play a friendly match in Doha against Brazil. Few spectators were there, only football heroes like Zinedine Zidane and former Argentine striker Gabriel Batistuta, each of which reportedly was paid $ 1 million to back Qatar’s bid,” the newsletter quoted Kistner as saying.

Kistner produced at $200 million the highest estimate yet of Qatar’s total budget to win the 2022 bid and quoted “one insider” who asserted that the total cost could be hundreds of millions of dollars more if one included alleged incentives promised to various countries.

Qatar has never published the total budget of its bid, but past estimates have put its budget for marketing and event-related spending at $45 million, a multiple of the $10 million campaign spent by the United States.
Kistner said Qatar has promised as part of its bid to build 22 stadiums in developing nations as well as a soccer academy in Thailand.

"In another twist, France's voting representative Michel Platini voted for Qatar after being told to do so by the country's President, Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been close to Qatar since signing energy deals in January 2008, when he also forecast France-Qatar trade contracts would be worth ‘billions’ in the future,” Kistner said.

If true, Platini and Qatar have since had a parting of the ways with the UEFA chief provoking Qatar’s ire by proposing that 2022 games be moved to winter to evade the Gulf state’s scorching summer heat and suggesting that other Gulf states be allowed to co-host the tournament. Qatar has rejected both suggestions.

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