‘Risk to Qatar World Cup, contractors’ following latest corruption allegations

It wasn't long after this image was taken that the first claims of corruption were being made. (File/AFP)
Updated 11 March 2019

‘Risk to Qatar World Cup, contractors’ following latest corruption allegations

  • Doha accused of offering FIFA $880m in secret payments
  • Al Jazeera executives made $400m offer in TV contract, UK newspaper reveals

LONDON: Contractors working on Qatar World Cup projects face an increased risk from Doha being stripped of the rights to host the controversial 2022 tournament following the latest corruption allegations surrounding the Gulf state’s dealings with FIFA, a leading analyst has said.

Qatar allegedly offered football’s governing body as much as $880 million in secret payments at key stages in its efforts to host the 2022 World Cup, it emerged on Sunday.

The new allegations may be “the most damaging so far,” Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of Cornerstone Global, a management consultancy focused on the Middle East, told Arab News.

Nuseibeh said that the revelations posed a risk to both FIFA and companies currently working on Qatar World Cup projects.

“It is not about individuals but about institutions on both sides: FIFA itself and Qatari channel Al Jazeera. FIFA will now need to decide on how it will investigate itself, rather than individuals connected to it. The reputation of FIFA risks permanent irreversible damage,” Nuseibeh told Arab News.  

“This also carries substantial risks to companies currently working on Qatar 2022 projects. With a real increase in risk in Qatar not hosting 2022, businesses involved will want reassurances from Qatari authorities on what could happen to them if Qatar is indeed stripped of the right to host.”

Leaked files seen by The Sunday Times appear to show that Doha offered FIFA $400 million 21 days before the decision to hold the tournament in the tiny Gulf state was announced.

Executives from the Qatari state-run broadcaster Al Jazeera made the offer at the height of campaigning over the tournament, in a clear breach of FIFA’s own anti-bribery rules, the UK newspaper claimed. 

The TV rights contract, signed in December 2010, reportedly included a $100 million “success fee” to be paid to a FIFA account if Qatar’s bid was successful.  

The British newspaper said it had seen documents that read: “In the event that the 2022 competition is awarded to the state of Qatar, Al Jazeera shall, in addition to the … rights fee, pay to FIFA into the designated account the monetary amount of $100 million.”

Such an offer would represent a huge conflict of interest and a breach of FIFA’s own rules, given that Al Jazeera is controlled by Qatar’s emir, the newspaper reported.

It is also claimed that an second television rights contract for $480 million was offered by Al Jazeera sports spinoff beIN Media in April 2014 — shortly before FIFA cut short its investigation into the World Cup bidding process, and when Qatar’s hosting of the tournament was in doubt. That pushed the amount FIFA was offered by Qatari officials to $880 million.

That contract now forms part of a bribery inquiry by Swiss police, according to the The Sunday Times report.

On Saturday evening, Damian Collins, the chairman of the UK digital, culture and media committee, said FIFA must freeze the Al Jazeera payments and launch an investigation into the contract “that appears to be in clear breach of the rules,” the paper reported.

Under the contract terms, a multimillion-dollar payment, including a portion of the $100 million “success fee” is reportedly due to be paid next month. 

It has long been claimed that Qatar offered bribes to FIFA officials in its bid to host the 2022 World Cup — and this latest report will likely fuel further suspicion that Qatar effectively bought the right to host the tournament.

FIFA did not respond to a request for comment when contacted by Arab News.

The academic fighting to stop Lebanon’s brain drain

Updated 42 min 33 sec ago

The academic fighting to stop Lebanon’s brain drain

LONDON: Lebanese professor Mustapha Jazar has made it his life’s work to help connect students to the jobs they deserve.
While Lebanon has long produced highly educated students, this promising pipeline is badly affected by a lack of matching job opportunities.
Jazar set up the Lebanese Association for Scientific Research (LASeR) 10 years ago to “try to help the students through their journey from school to the job market.”
“The government itself isn’t doing anything about it,” Jazar said.
LASeR is a research-driven nongovernmental organization (NGO) that focuses on selecting candidates to pursue work-orientated research programs.
Through the undertaking of specific research initiatives, the students are trained in areas that will have a positive impact on Lebanon’s socio-economic condition, and can acquire skills that will improve their employability.
Jazar says: “I’m a true believer in research. Throughout my life I have been a researcher and I’ve tried to find funds to do research; for myself, for my students and my colleagues. Then one day I had the idea to create an NGO to mobilize the benefits of research in a more systematic way.”
For the first five years, LASeR was focused on university professors but the NGO has since shifted its focus to undergraduates. The program now takes in about 150 students annually.
Jazar says: “LASeR’s programs include a mix of capacity-building, soft skills and advanced technical skills according to their major. The aim is that students will be better equipped for the job market at the end of three years of university.”
The framework is called “E2C: Education To Community.” It has three modules: Media to Community, Health to Community and the soon-to-be launched Engineering to Community.
“The idea is to take a bunch of students nearing graduation in their third year of study, call them to apply, and then enroll them in a competition-based experience for three to four months where we deliver training. At the end, they have to deliver a product,” Jazar said.
He said that previous projects have included society-wide health-awareness campaigns and public-technology solutions.
At the end of the training period, a jury assesses the outcome of each group and gives a grade, along with the public’s assessment.
Jazar said: “In this way, they will learn the basics of how to deliver an awareness campaign and how to run a budget. If they need specific training, we will find a senior or alumni to deliver the training. Every team has a mentor. In the media group, most of the students have already found jobs.”
Jazar said LASeR was funded by donations and corporate sponsorship. The NGO relies heavily on volunteer expertise from corporates and within the university.
Local enrollment at Lebanese universities is exceptionally high — at about 50 percent — but the country’s small size and job pipeline inefficiencies mean career opportunities are limited.
“Lebanon is educating many highly skilled people but they are going abroad to work in the Gulf, Canada, Europe or the US,” Jazar said.
“We are facing a real problem, especially in research. Jobs are becoming competitive. Right now, we are nearing saturation. We will be observing brain 
drain soon.”
In 2018, 4,000 students graduated in engineering, which is a huge number for a country that has a population of four million, he says.
“We do believe that there will be a scarcity of job offers, but what is also lacking in Lebanon is self-employment, start-ups and initiatives led by young people, especially in coding,” Jazar said.
Through LASeR, Jazar aims to create a framework that cherry-picks the best talents from society and focuses these talents on addressing Lebanon’s biggest issues and opportunities.
“We believe there’s a huge amount of social problems that need to be addressed. We aim to raise awareness about our society and the environment with our students.
“We are training our students to look for problems and come up with solutions that will make money for their livelihoods — and for the betterment of Lebanon.”