Fifa Executive Committee member Michel D’Hooghe insists there will be no reopening of the bidding process for the 2022 World Cup, suggesting that concern within the UK media over how Qatar won the right to host the event is viewed as a case of “sour grapes” by world football’s governing body.
Reports in the Daily Telegraph earlier this month provided the latest flashpoint surrounding Qatar’s selection to host the World Cup – with the newspaper claiming it had seen details of payments from a company owned by Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam, the former head of the Asian Football Confederation, to fellow former Fifa member Jack Warner, from the Caribbean.
Both men’s Fifa careers were subsequently curtailed after they were implicated in a corruption scandal surrounding Bin Hammam’s presidential campaign against Sepp Blatter in 2011.
British Prime Minister David Cameron added his voice to the latest spate of criticism, but D’Hooghe, the chairman of Fifa’s medical committee who has advised against scheduling a Qatar tournament in the World Cup’s traditional June/July berth – says such calls will fall on deaf ears.
“There will be absolutely no re-vote,” he told the London Evening Standard newspaper. “Some in the English press want that. But it’s not the English press that decide.”
Asked whether he suspected any element of corruption in the vote, D’Hooghe responded: “Absolutely not. I had no feeling anything was going on then and I still have no feeling that there was corruption during this vote. The voting took place in absolute religious silence, like a conclave to elect the Pope. Everybody had to give in his mobile on entering the room. I have done so many elections. There was not much difference with the earlier ones.”
In reference to England’s failed bid for the 2018 tournament, a vote that fell in Russia’s favour at the same time as the Qatar 2022 poll, he added: “For the British press, whatever we do is never enough. And the feeling in Fifa is that all this British criticism is partly sour grapes.”
Fifa’s internal workings came under further scrutiny last week when the Reuters news agency reported the position of Michael Garcia, head of the investigative chamber of the Ethics Committee, came under severe threat during the latest round of Executive Committee meetings. Garcia is investigating the alleged corruption surrounding the voting procedure for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, along with the 2011 Fifa presidential election. D’Hooghe said he was not party to any attempt to remove Garcia and is pleased with the job the former FBI investigator is doing.
“No proposal was made to me,” he said. “It did not come before the executive. It was only after the meeting that I heard that some people were not prepared to accept Garcia. It is very clear. We, the executive committee, had proposed to congress to establish an ethical committee and I would not consider taking that responsibility away from Mr Garcia. This guy takes his work very seriously. I am very impressed with him and really support him.
“Mr Garcia plans to interview all the Fifa executive committee who participated in the vote and are still on the executive. I had a very good talk with him and a chance to tell him what I knew of the elections. I had, of course, nothing to hide.”