Qatar were awarded the 2022 World Cup in December 2010 and It’s taken FIFA until now to realise and investigate what most of us speculated on the day of the announcement. FIFA have now opened an investigation into fresh bribery allegations against Qatari representative Mohammed Bin Hamman, after speculation surfaced that former vice-president Jack Warner was paid £720,000 five days after the announcement. This is the first real claim out of many over the past four years that FIFA has deemed ‘questionable’, despite ongoing claims of wrong-doing, bribes and backroom deals. One of FIFA’s own representative even came forward after the announcement with claims of corruption, but suspiciously later recanted. What’s more surprising about the whole saga is that no one in power ever really questioned how a tiny oil-rich gulf state with no real apparent football interest, or even history, got the event in the first place.
This isn’t the first time Mohammed Bin Hamman has had the corruption spotlight placed on him. If it wasn’t already clear that this man could be responsible for swinging the World Cup Qatar’s way with bribes and deals, let’s remember that he was banned from football for life a year after the Qatar won the bid, after being found guilty of offering bribes of $40,000 in cash to members of the Caribbean Football Union, including the Trinidadian former Concacaf president. However, now Mr. Hamman isn’t involved in football anymore, it’s hard to see what sanctions FIFA could take against him now in 2014. He may have escaped this one, but the same can’t be said for his countries bid.
Aside from the bribery and corruption claims, the practicality of having a World Cup in Qatar is just as confusing. The dates of the event, which were expected to take place between June and July 2022, have now been confirmed to take place somewhere around November 2022 and January 2023. Understandably, this was done to avoid players who aren’t used to the climate having to play in the scorching Qatari conditions where temperatures can reach as high as 50C during the summer. But then again, this means that the World Cup will technically be split between 2022 and 2023, creating an odd scenario of balancing the most prestigious prize in football with Christmas and New Year.
Furthermore, we must remember that FIFA are the governing body of the ‘Kick It Out’ campaign which fights against racism and homosexuality in football, and yet they seem to have no problem with hosting the most watched event in football in a country that have openly strict laws against homosexuality. It’s hard to understand how an organisation that are supposedly completely against homophobia would let an event like this be hosted by a country that contradicts their own beliefs, which to some would beg the question, just how deep are Qatar’s pockets?
The only thing more shocking about the claims of slavery and people dying during the construction of the venues in Qatar is that they are still allowed to go ahead with the plans. Qatar is having everything built from scratch because, unsurprisingly, it hasn’t got its own network of football stadiums, hotels or other facilities needed, so they plan to spend $100b on filling their miles of desert with what’s required. The glamour of this figure was dimmed down and a cloud was cast over the event when reports emerged last year exposing Qatar of using forced labor against migrant workers, particularly from Nepal, amounting to slavery on the World Cup infrastructure project. And yet, this concept of the rich exploiting the poor has not been enough for FIFA’s ethics committee to see reason in pulling the plug on Qatar hosting the event.
The corporate side of football rears its ugly head more than ever when it comes to the World Cup, with big money contracts being set up by TV companies all around the world with one word in mind, profit. It’s no surprise then that U.S television company Fox are opposing the winter World Cup proposition, having already paid $425m for the rights to the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, expecting they would be played in summer. The issue here is that American companies like Fox also invest a lot of time and money in the Super Bowl, which is undoubtedly the biggest sporting event America has to offer. Fox will no doubt be displeased with having to incorporate broadcasting the World Cup around winter, as it would clash with the Super Bowl and take the shine off the event.
Negotiations have already been brought forward by various American television companies to pay a smaller coverage fee if the tournament was moved. This just adds more substance to the notion that holding the World Cup in Qatar was just never meant to be and wouldn’t give the event the justice it deserves. What more evidence do FIFA need to be convinced that this was a bad idea from the start?