FIFA Risks Damaging World Cup If Qatar 2022 Allegations Are Not Addressed

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FIFA Risks Damaging World Cup If Qatar 2022 Allegations Are Not Addressed
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Every four years, FIFA gifts football supporters across the globe with a celebration of the game.

The World Cup is our chance to witness the best professionals from across the planet doing what they do best—play football.

And it's for our benefit, too, which is a debt we will always owe the world governing body.

However, less than two weeks before hosts Brazil kick off the 2014 World Cup, the dark cloud of a future tournament has returned.

Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake of the Sunday Times (subscription required) have reported that an alleged "covert campaign" by a former Qatari football official helped to secure the vote in favour of the Gulf state.

The pay-wall status of the newspaper website might make it difficult for the details of the story to be read by many, but David Bond of BBC Sport outlined the allegations made by the Sunday Times.

Bond wrote:

The Sunday Times has obtained millions of secret documentsemails, letters and bank transferswhich it alleges are proof that the disgraced Qatari football official Mohamed Bin Hammam made payments totalling US$5 million (£3 million) to football officials in return for their support for the Qatar bid.

Qatar 2022 and Bin Hammam have always strenuously denied the former Fifa vice-president actively lobbied on their behalf in the run-up to the vote in December 2010.

But, according to emails obtained by the Sunday Times and seen by the BBC, it is now clear that Bin Hammam, 65, was lobbying on his country's behalf at least a year before the decision.

The documents also show how Bin Hammam was making payments directly to football officials in Africa to allegedly buy their support for Qatar in the contest.

This is just the latest controversy surrounding the proposed Qatar 2022 finals; the debate is still ongoing about when the competition would be staged, as BBC Sport reported earlier this year.

But it is the tale of alleged corruption involved in the bidding process that refuses to go away.

Member of Parliament John Whittingdale, the chairman of the House of Commons' Culture, Media and Sport committee, said in an interview with Sky News that FIFA president Sepp Blatter should resign if the Sunday Times' claims are proven to be correct.

Whittingdale is quoted as saying:

These are obviously very serious allegations and they need to be investigated very quickly.

The failure of Sepp Blatter over the past two years really to take this seriously...does put his position into question.

If these allegations are shown to be correct, then the contest of the 2022 host country does need to be looked at again.

FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce told BBC Radio 5 Live that the vote for the staging of the 2022 World Cup will be revisited if the world governing body's official investigator Michael Garcia uncovers wrongdoing in his long-term research into the bidding process.

Boyce is reported as saying he would have no problem if the recommendation was for a re-vote:

If Garcia reports that wrongdoing happened for the 2022 vote then it has to be looked at very seriously.

The FIFA executive committee are 100 percent behind Garcia. He will be allowed to go and speak to anyone from around the world to complete his mission. All evidence should go to him and we will then await a full report on his findings.

The timing of the allegations in the Sunday Times will be an embarrassment for FIFA, though, with the 2014 World Cup on the immediate horizon.

The month-long gala of football will be taking place in Brazil, but it is a tournament eight years from now that is stealing the headlines.

The World Cup brand has become a worldwide success, with astronomical figures involved.

Via Darren Heitner of Forbes, Brazil's Ministry of Tourism claimed $3.03 billion could be added to the national economy by staging the finals this year.

And Graham Dunbar of The Associated Press (via USA Today) reported that FIFA will rake in $4 billion from commercial revenue for the competition.

Michael Probst/Associated Press

The figures are huge, but few fans across the world are going to be especially concerned if the entertainment on the field matches expectations.

For FIFA, though, allegations such as those made in the Sunday Times will cast a long shadow over its blue-riband event.

No matter what Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo et al. produce on the field, there will always be a doubt over future World Cups if there is doubt over the integrity of the vote involved in staging the 2022 tournament.

Where Blatter and the world governing body should be basking in the glow of staging another World Cup finals, the cloud of Qatar will be filling the skies instead.

FIFA must act swiftly to prevent 2022 making its presence felt on the forthcoming edition in Brazil.

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