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29th Jul 2018

Qatar World Cup bid team accused of sabotaging rivals with ‘black ops’ campaign

Simon Lloyd

The team behind Qatar’s winning bid to host the 2022 World Cup allegedly broke FIFA rules by running a secret ‘black ops’ campaign

The Sunday Times says it was passed emails by a whistleblower who had worked within the Qatar bid team.

According to the documents obtained by the newspaper, former CIA agents and a PR agency were used to spread fake propaganda about the bids from Qatar’s two main rivals for hosting the tournament, Australia and the United States. This allegedly saw them recruit important figures from both countries to criticise their own bids, therefore giving the impression they lacked home support.

The Times’ report says the alleged smear campaign involved a $9,000 (£6,900) payment to a professor to write a condemning report on the economic cost of a World Cup being staged in the US. American PE teachers were also recruited to put pressure on congressmen to oppose the US World Cup on the grounds the money spent on it would be better invested in high school sport, the paper claims.  As well as this, the Qatari team allegedly recruited journalists and bloggers to produce and promote negative stories in Australian, American and international media.

FIFA rules stipulate that bidders for major tournaments must not make any written or oral statements ‘about the bids or candidatures of any other member association which has expressed an interest in hosting and staging the competitions.’

Qatar have rejected the allegations via a statement from their Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, insisting they ‘strictly adhered to all FIFA’s rules and regulations throughout the bidding process.

‘The Supreme Committee rejects each and every allegation put forward by the Sunday Times,’ the statement reads.

‘We have been thoroughly investigated and have been forthcoming with all information related to our bid, including the official investigation led by US attorney Michael Garcia.

‘We have strictly adhered to all Fifa’s rules and regulations for the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process.’