FIFA’s decision to hold the World Cup 2022 in Qatar was never popular with most of the football world. The grumblings have become a deafening roar following recent corruption allegations surrounding a Qatari football official and FIFA bigwigs.
In a matter of days World Cup 2014 is about to begin, featuring the top 32 teams from across the globe competing in the tropical paradise of Brazil. While the country is reeling from political and social problems related to government corruption and economic inequality, fans are thrilled to watch the matches in arguably the world’s most football-crazy country.Sportsbooks and mobile betting sites are salivation at the numbers of wagers they will take in on the Cup.
While we’re confident that the 2014 games will be a smashing success; fans, FIFA officials and footballers are grumbling about World Cup 2022, set to be played in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar. Qatar is neither a football hotbed nor a top vacation destination. The potential political benefit of hosting the games there is also small. The decision has left members of the football world shaking their heads.
The road to Qatar
According to an official document from FIFA, “FIFA’s budding process is based on the principles of transparency and equality, and the Bidders received rules as well as guidance from FIFA in order to ensure comprehensive and specific documentation of their candidature.”
• The Sunday Times alleged that Qatari football official Mohamed bin Hammam paid $5 million in cash and gifts to senior FIFA officials
• The scandal has led to calls from British, Australian and Japanese officials to strip Qatar of the games reopen the bidding process
• The Qatari government has stated that bin Hammam is not an official representative of the country and was not connected to the bidding process
Most observers have their doubts as to whether these high-sounding words actually rang true during the bidding process. Qatar was awarded the games over competing bids from the US, Japan, South Korea and Australia, among several others.
Each of which is currently better equipped with regards to facilities, infrastructure and legal framework to host the games. online sportsbooks in the UK were taking wagers on which country would be awarded the Cup, and Qatar was treated as a longshot.
Due to the country’s small size, ten out of its twelve suitable stadiums are located within a 25-kilometer radius. These cramped confines could create a logistical nightmare. In addition, nine of the stadiums must be newly constructed at an estimated cost of $3 billion. What’s more, the games will be played indoors due to the intense Qatari summer heat. Cooling these stadiums will be costly, and most fans and players prefer playing outdoors in the first place.
There are some justifications for having the games in Qatar. The most obvious one is that it is located in closer proximity to Europe than the other major bidders. This will keep television ratings high. The committee is also excited by “the opportunity for FIFA to bring the FIFA World Cup to the Middle East for the first time.”
Given the conditions in Qatar, most observers had misgivings upon the announcement of the games. The misgivings have turned to fury as the UK Sunday Times recently alleged that Qatari former FIFA official Mohamed bin Hammam paid $5 million in cash and gifts to senior FIFA officials in order to cement support for the bid.
The newspapers claims to have “hundreds of millions of documents and emails” detailing payments and money transfers from accounts controlled by bin Hammam. This includes $1.6 million in payments to disgraced former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, who has denied any wrongdoing.
While it looks impossible for the Qatari government to deny that bin Hammam made the payments, it will argue that he was attempting to secure the FIFA presidency for himself rather than promote Qatar’s bid. It gave a statement on Sunday declaring that bin Hammam played “no official or unofficial” role in the bidding process.
The story confirmed the suspicions which many already had, and has resulted in a wave of outrage. Britain has been especially vocal in calls to strip Qatar of the games and hold a new vote. Shadow sports minister Clive Efford said this: “this issue calls the governance of football into question. No one will have any confidence in a FIFA investigation run by Sepp Blatter… FIFA must take urgent action and reopen the bidding for the 2022 World Cup if it wants to restore its credibility.”
Chances that the 2022 games will be moved?
Current FIFA president Blatter has called the decision to award the games to FIFA “a mistake,” but it’s unlikely that he will admit to any corruption allegations. He has even indicated that he will seek re-election as president in 2015. FIFA will undertake an investigation of the matter, but as Mr. Efford made clear, it likely will not be treated as credible by most outside observers.
FIFA obviously would like to avoid the embarrassment of reopening the bidding process. But if allegations are proved true and the scandal spirals out of control, it may have no choice. Australia and Japan have been the loudest in calling for reopening, with both hinting at their intention to resubmit bids.