Qatar denies smear allegations against rival World Cup bids

Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy has rubbished fresh allegations reported in the Sunday Times newspaper that the team that led the country’s successful bid for the 2022 Fifa World Cup ran a secret campaign in 2010 to sabotage competing bids.

The UK newspaper claimed to have seen leaked documents that show that ex-CIA agents and a US PR firm were hired to smear rivals, particularly Australia and the US. The other two countries in the contest to host the 2022 World Cup were Japan and South Korea.

The smear campaign allegedly included paying journalists, bloggers and influential figures in certain countries to highlight negative aspects of their nation’s bid and recruiting a group of American physical education teachers to lobby congressmen to oppose a World Cup, claiming that the money would be better spent on grassroots sports investment.

According to Fifa rules, bidding nations for the World Cup are not allowed to make “any written or oral statements of any kind, whether adverse or otherwise, about the bids or candidatures of any other member association”.

Qatar’s committee said that it “rejects each and every allegation put forward by the Sunday Times” and added: “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.”

Qatar’s bid team was previously investigated by Fifa, but was cleared after an inquiry that lasted two years.

“A thorough investigation was conducted by Michael Garcia and his conclusions are available in the report,” Fifa said.

The communications company named in the report was Brown Lloyd Jones, which is now called BLJ Worldwide. The company did not respond to a request for comment from the newspaper.