Allegations of corruption in the bidding to host soccer’s Fifa World Cup in 2022 have resurfaced following the publication of a report in France repeating claims that the award of the tournament to Qatar was tainted by corruption and collusion.
France Football magazine alleged in an investigation that the process leading to Qatar winning the 2022 bid race in December 2010 had "the whiff of scandal" about it and suggested that the event should be re-awarded.
It detailed a November 23, 2010 dinner in Paris alleged to have involved Nicolas Sarkozy, the (then) French president, Michel Platini, the French president of Uefa, European soccer's governing body, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, chairman of the Qatar Olympic Committee and the heir apparent, and a representative of the former owners of top-flight soccer club Paris Saint-Germain, in which it is alleged that Platini was urged to back Qatar as part of a deal for a proposed Qatari buy-out of PSG and the creation of a new television sports channel.
PSG were bought by Qatar Sports Investment in June 2011, while BeIN Sport, a subsidiary of Qatari pay-television broadcaster Al-Jazeera, launched last year and acquired the television rights to show, among other sports, live French soccer, taking them away from France's Canal Plus.
But Platini hit out at the "pure speculation" yesterday, and warned in a statement to AFP: "I don't rule out taking anyone to court who questions my integrity in this vote."
He continued: "As I've always stated, president Sarkozy would never have asked me to vote for Qatar 2022 because he knows that I'm my own man. I made my choice with complete independence following a simple logic... opening up countries who have never organised major sporting events.
"With the same concern for transparency, it was me who revealed to the media that a few weeks before the vote I was invited to dinner by Nicolas Sarkozy."
To support its claims, France Football, which dubbed the affair 'Qatargate', quoted what it said was an internal email from Jérôme Valcke, in which the secretary general of Fifa, the sport's governing body, was alleged to have said that the Gulf state had "bought the 2022 World Cup."
Valcke subsquently claimed a misunderstanding and insisted his email was "light-hearted."
The story has also figured strongly in the Spanish and Latin American press, given the high profile of various figures from both regions.
In a table entitled ‘The 10 Main Characters of the 2022 Fifa World Cup’, France Football lists Julio Grondona, president of the AFA,the Argentinean soccer association, and a Fifa vice president, who has this week announced that he will step down from his positions in 2015.
Others in the top 10 include Ricardo Teixeira, the former president of the CBF, the Brazilian soccer confederation, and a former Fifa executive committee member, who stepped down from his posts last year, and Barcelona president Sandro Rosell, whose club now has a shirt sponsorship deal with Qatar Foundation. The list also includes players and coaches who acted as ambassadors for the Qatar bid including former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola and former Argentina striker Gabriel Batistuta.
The magazine's other allegations of collusion via vote-swapping between bids were published over two years ago by UK newspapers.
Fifa has refused to comment directly on the France Football article, although the federation reaffirmed last week that Michael Garcia, the chair of the investigatory chamber of its ethics committee, is to conduct a "wide-ranging inquiry" into the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 edition to Qatar.
Fifa said in a statement: "As has been publicly announced, certain allegations regarding events surrounding the bidding for the World Cup 2018 and 2022 were referred to the Ethics Committee by Fifa following media reports. We intend to conduct a thorough review of those allegations, including the evidentiary basis for and credibility of any allegations of individual misconduct."
The Qatar 2022 organising committee has long dismissed the allegations, saying its bid was conducted in accordance with "the highest moral and ethical standards and integrity from start to finish, strictly adhering to bidding rules and regulations for bidding nations."