LONDON: Qatar hired former CIA agents to conduct a so called black operations campaign to attack rival World Cup bids, the Sunday Times reported.
The newspaper said Qatar paid a public relations firm to spread “fake propaganda” about Australia and the US — both rivals to host the 2022 competition, citing emails from a whistleblower.
Qatar’s bid to host the competition has been plagued by allegations of corruption ever since the shock announcement handing the hosting rights to the Gulf state was made in 2010.
Doha aimed to recruit influential individuals to attack bids in their native countries, creating the impression there was “zero support” to host the World Cup among the population, the Sunday Times reported.
One email that was sent to Qatar’s deputy bid leader Ali Al-Thawadi allegedly shows the state was aware of plots to spread “poison” against other bidders in the running before Qatar won the right to host the tournament.
It is alleged the plotters even planned for a US Congress resolution highlighting the harmful effects of the US bid and paid a professor $9,000 to draft a report highlighting the economic burden it would create for the country.
The leaked documents also revealed that a group of American PE teachers had been recruited to ask congressmen to oppose a US World Cup on the grounds the money would be better spent on high school sports.
In Australia grassroots protests were organized at rugby games in Australia opposing the country's bid, the Sunday Times claimed.
FIFA rules say bidders must “refrain from making any written or oral statements of any kind, whether adverse or otherwise, about the bids or candidatures of any other member association which has expressed an interest in hosting and staging the competitions.”
There is now bound to be speculation that if the allegations are proven and linked directly to the bid team then it could increase the risk of Qatar being sensationally stripped of the event.
British MP and long-time critic of the decision to award the World Cup to Qatar, Damian Collins, has called for an independent investigation into the allegations.
"If the Qataris have broken the rules, they should face some sanctions,” he told BBC Radio Five Live.
Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy has rejected all the paper’s claims. In a statement, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said it “rejected each and every allegation put forward by the Sunday Times.
“We have been thoroughly investigated and have been forthcoming with all information related to our bid, including the official investigation led by US attorney Michael Garcia.
“We have strictly adhered to all FIFA’s rules and regulations for the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process.”