Former UEFA head Platini detained in Qatar World Cup probe

Qatar was named ro host the World Cup in a decision that triggered controversy over its suitability amid allegations of corruption. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 June 2019

Former UEFA head Platini detained in Qatar World Cup probe

  • Platini’s lawyer, William Bourdon, said his client was innocent of all charges
  • Decision in December 2010 to award the World Cup to Qatar surprised many

PARIS: The banned ex-UEFA chief Michel Platini was held for questioning Tuesday in connection with a criminal investigation into the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
The French football legend who led European football’s governing body from 2007 to 2015 was taken into custody by French anti-corruption police investigating alleged corruption in the 2010 vote to award the competition to Qatar.
Platini, 63, was in custody and questioned in Nanterre in the western Paris suburbs.

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READ MORE: TIMELINE: The trail of corruption allegations surrounding the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

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He denied wrongdoing and a statement from his representatives said the facts of the case were “unknown to him.”
The decision to name Qatar as 2022 World Cup hosts triggered allegations of corruption that ultimately sparked FIFA’s worst ever scandal.
France’s Office of the Financial Crimes Prosecutor (PNF) opened a preliminary investigation in 2016 into allegations of corruption, conspiracy and influence peddling surrounding the Qatar vote and also the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia.
According to Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president at the time, Qatar won hosting rights as a result of a deal with France, derailing FIFA’s own “diplomatic arrangement” whereby hosting rights would have gone to Russia in 2018 and then to the United States four years later.
The French investigation centers on alleged French intervention linked to Platini and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
According to France Football magazine, a “secret meeting” took place on November 23, 2010, at the Elysee Palace in Paris between Sarkozy, Qatar’s then-crown prince (now Emir) Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and Platini, who at that time was both UEFA president and vice president of FIFA.
Just over a week later, FIFA voted to award Qatar hosting rights for the 2022 tournament.
Platini dismissed Blatter’s allegations as a “tissue of lies” and denies he was influenced by Sarkozy, whose adviser for sport, Sophie Dion, was also held for questioning Tuesday along with the former French captain.
Platini’s representatives said in a statement: “He has done absolutely nothing wrong and affirms that he is totally unrelated to the facts (of the case) which are unknown to him.”
Platini’s lawyer, William Bourdon, denied that the three-time Ballon d’Or winner had been placed under arrest by the police, as first reported, saying that he had been questioned “as a witness.”
Claude Gueant, Sarkozy’s erstwhile chief of staff and former interior minister, was also called in for questioning Tuesday by France’s Anti-Corruption Office of the Judicial Police.
The decision to award Qatar football’s highest-profile tournament ultimately sparked a wider fraud probe that led to the overthrow of Blatter and Platini and the arrest of a series of senior FIFA figures.
Platini led UEFA until 2015 when he was banned from football for four years for ethics violations including receiving a two-million Swiss francs ($2 million) payment from Blatter, who was suspended for six years.
Qatar has been accused of buying votes in its bid to stage the World Cup and a subsequent report by US independent investigator Michael Garcia unearthed an array of suspect financial dealings, many linked to Sandro Rosell, the ex-Barcelona president who served as a consultant for Qatar.
Platini was expected to succeed Blatter as FIFA president in 2016 before his fall from grace. He has been battling to clear his name ever since.


Riyadh to host inaugural Saudi international cycling race

Updated 22 January 2020

Riyadh to host inaugural Saudi international cycling race

  • This new race represents an exciting organizational challenge, a coherent sporting event for an entire category of riders

JEDDAH: Sports chiefs are gearing up to announce the Saudi city venue for a new international cycling race set to take place in the Kingdom.

Chairman of the Saudi General Sports Authority Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal is expected to reveal on Thursday that Riyadh will host the five-stage Saudi Tour 2020 from Feb. 4 to 8.

The inaugural edition of the 2.1 category race is being staged by Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), the organizer of the world-famous Tour de France.

Details of the route in and around the Saudi capital were due to be released during a press conference at Riyadh’s Digital City.

The cycling event precedes the Tour of Oman (Feb. 11 to 16) which is facing cancelation following the death of Sultan Qaboos.

ASO chief executive, Yann Le Moenner, said: “We are involved in the emergence of a new racing scene in the Middle East, which corresponds to the riders’ demand at the beginning of the year.

“The creation of the Saudi Tour and its sustainable installation in the calendar is part of this movement. This new race represents an exciting organizational challenge, a coherent sporting event for an entire category of riders, and a nice opportunity for the television viewers who follow the race to discover new landscapes.

“This is also, for us, an occasion to contribute to the development of cycling across the Kingdom,” he added.

Saudi Cycling Federation chief Sabah Al-Kraidees said it was an “honor” to have the inaugural Saudi Tour, noting that the event would help to promote the Kingdom as a tourist destination.

“The Saudi Tour is a great opportunity to publicize the country’s varied territories and historic sites and to let visitors discover our sense of hospitality. This initiative fits perfectly with the ambition of Saudi Arabia to promote the Kingdom beyond its borders through sports and especially cycling,” he added.

The five-day event will feature stages in the hills around Riyadh and on urban circuits.

The Kingdom recently began issuing tourist visas after travel to the country was largely limited to pilgrims, business travelers and resident workers.