President Sepp Blatter announces Qatar as the host nation for the 2022 World Cup, in Zurich during December 2010. Photo: REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
President Sepp Blatter announces Qatar as the host nation for the 2022 World Cup, in Zurich during December 2010. Photo: REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (left), Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and FIFA President Gianni Infantino (centre). Photo: EPA-EFE/ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/SPUTNIK
Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (left), Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and FIFA President Gianni Infantino (centre). Photo: EPA-EFE/ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/SPUTNIK

LONDON - FIFA have been urged to reconsider England as potential 2022 World Cup hosts if Qatar are shown to have broken rules with a propaganda campaign to sabotage their rivals.

Qatar’s winning bid used former CIA agents and a PR agency to spread fake propaganda about their main rivals the US and Australia, according to documents leaked to The Sunday Times. FIFA rules forbid bidding countries from "making any statement" about the candidacy of other member associations.

But according to a whistleblower, Qatar was aware of a plot to spread "poison" against its rivals and spent thousands trying to discredit their bids in their own countries ahead of FIFA’s call to award them the tournament in 2010. Now Lord David Triesman, former chairman of the Football Association, is calling on FIFA to step in.

"FIFA’s obligation is to look at the evidence thoroughly and rapidly and have the courage to take what may be a difficult decision," said Triesman, who chaired England’s original bid for the 2018 tournament. "If Qatar is shown to have broken the FIFA rules, then they can’t hold on to the World Cup. I think it would not be wrong for FIFA to reconsider England in those circumstances. We have the capabilities." 

Qatari football officials have denied any wrongdoing, stating that they had "strictly adhered to all FIFA’s rules and regulations". Last year, a FIFA report into allegations of corruption in the bidding process made no suggestion that Qatar should lose the right to stage the World Cup, despite detailing numerous attempts to influence voting officials.

MP Damian Collins, the chairman of parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, called for a new "proper, independent investigation" into the latest allegations.

"I’ve met the whistleblower myself," Collins said, "and seen the evidence that he’s brought forward. I think these are serious matters and there needs to be a proper, independent investigation of them." Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, he added: "If the Qataris have broken the rules, they should face some sanctions."

Those sanctions could include fines or even losing the right to host the tournament. But a FIFA statement said: "A thorough investigation was conducted by Michael Garcia and his conclusions are available in the report."

According to The Sunday Times, the alleged smear campaign included paying a professor £6,900 to write a damning report on the huge economic cost of a World Cup in the US and rallying Australian rugby-supporting students into protesting against their nation hosting the football tournament.

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