Football has descended into another “bout of mudslinging”, with details of the bribes and gifts that allegedly secured Qatar’s victory in its bid to stage the 2022 World Cup, says Matthew Syed in The Sunday Times.
A “bombshell cache of millions of documents” leaked to the newspaper reveal how Mohamed bin Hammam, the disgraced former vice-president of Fifa, made payments worth more than $5m to senior football officials in order to secure votes for Qatar.
The revelations come at a time when Fifa’s top internal investigator, Michael Garcia, has spent more than a year examining allegations of bribery and corruption over the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.
However, he has reportedly not asked to see the cache. Nor does he have plans to interview Bin Hammam, because the Qatar bid committee has always insisted that he is an “entirely separate” individual who had nothing to do with the campaign. However, the leaked documents show he had “close contact with the leaders of the Qatar bid”.
Bin Hammam, who is Qatari, was also banned from world football in 2011 after being caught bribing voters in his attempt to be elected president of Fifa.
Deciding to award the World Cup to Qatar always seemed odd, says The Times. Qatar is a nation with no football heritage and no top-class stadiums.
Concerns have been raised about subjecting players to temperatures of up to 50˚C. Even Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, admitted that the decision had been a “mistake”, while “showing no sign of wanting to rectify it”.
The bid is not the only issue that needs a rethink, says the FT. The “pork-barrel world of Fifa politics cannot continue”. As football’s international governing body, Fifa carries a huge responsibility.
An estimated 700 million people watched the 2010 World Cup final. The TV rights run to billions of dollars. “But far from being accountable to any outside body, Fifa acts like a sovereign state.”
The Swiss government could “force change”, since Fifa is legally incorporated as a Swiss non-profit organisation, as could Fifa’s main corporate sponsors. Failing that (both seem reluctant to act), Western governments and lawmakers should do so.
Since firms “have to abide by stringent anti-corruption laws”, the US Congress could, for instance, hold hearings to examine the relationships between American multinationals and Fifa.
The one sanction is for Fifa’s members to boycott it, says Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. The American soccer authorities have said that they won’t bid for any tournaments until Fifa is reformed.
Britain should withdraw from Fifa unless Blatter goes and the organisation is reconstructed. Yet, this is unlikely to happen unless a “critical mass of nations is prepared to form a rival world body”. Britain “should be the initiator”, but “neither its football authorities nor its craven government” has the guts and Blatter knows this.
The “only hope” is that the World Cup’s “extortion of billions of dollars” from Brazil during the forthcoming tournament “will bring other members to their senses”.