World football governing body Fifa is facing pressure to re-run the vote on who will host the 2022 World Cup after the Sunday Times revealed extensive evidence of corruption behind Qatar’s winning bid.
The paper yesterday published an 11-page investigation based on millions of leaked documents revealing evidence international football officials were bribed to take the World Cup to Qatar.
The desert state has little footballing tradition, a population of 1.6m and summer temperatures which regularly top 50C.
The Sunday Times has revealed how millions of dollars were spent on junkets and direct payments to football association officials around the world as part of a lobbying campaign apparently masterminded by Qatari vice president of Fifa Mohamed bin Hammam.
The leaked emails reveal football association leaders from African countries directly begging for money. One said: “I am in dire need of finance in the region of $30,000.” Another asked for “About 50 thousand dollars for my football association and personal expenditures”.
The Sunday Times said in a leader column: “A huge cache of documents leaked to The Sunday Times, containing hundreds of millions of files, reveals the true story of how the 2022 World Cup was awarded to Qatar. They show beyond doubt that the World Cup was bought for Qatar by means of large-scale bribery and corruption. Qatar cannot be allowed to continue as host of the World Cup.”
Qatar beat Australia, Japan, the US and South Korea to win the right to host the 2022 World Cup.
Greg Dyke, chairman of the Football Association, told Channel 4 News: "Some of this evidence on the face of it is quite compelling.
"If the evidence is there, that the process is corrupt, then obviously the process has to be looked at again."
Shadow international development secretary Jim Murphy called for the decision to be "cancelled and re-run" if the allegations were found to be true.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics: "I think the Qatar decision has always been controversial of course, but sometimes it was seen by the Qataris as sour grapes from the English or others across Britain.
"But if these allegations and the contents of the emails that The Sunday Times now has turn out to be true there can be no question about this."
Former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith said the decision to award Qatar the World Cup in 2022 should not stand if it is proved it was due to "bribery and improper influence".
The peer was appointed a member of Fifa's Independent Governance Committee, which was set up to look at ways of reforming the governing body.
Lord Goldsmith told the Today programme: "What we said as a committee in our final report when our mandate came to an end is, if Fifa is to emerge from the scandals – and this is not the only one but there are other issues – it has to produce a convincing and transparent answer to these allegations, particularly to these hosting decisions – and what's more the constituent bodies of Fifa have got to follow that through in a meaningful way.
"And what I believe that means – I'm not speaking for the committee or for any of my former committee members – is if these allegations are shown to be true then the hosting decision for Qatar has to be re-run.
"I don't see how, if it is proved – obviously it's not proved yet, though there is a case to answer, as you say – if it's proved the decision to give Qatar the World Cup was procured by, frankly, one can describe it no other way as bribery and improper influence, then that decision ought not to stand."
A spokesman for the Qatari football authorities said: "In regard to the latest allegations from The Sunday Times, we say again that Mohamed bin Hammam played no official or unofficial role in Qatar's 2022 Bid Committee.
"As was the case with every other member of Fifa's executive committee, our bid team had to convince Mr bin Hammam of the merits of our bid."