When the rights to host the FIFA World Cup 2022 were awarded to Qatar, the tiny, oil-rich nation became the first Middle Eastern country to be given the right to host the world's biggest sporting event.
But according to recent revelations by FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, the chance to make history wasn't the only motivator for some executive committee members. Valcke sent more shock waves through the sport today when he confirmed he had sent an email to CONCACAF chairman and Trinidad representative Jack Warner, telling Warner that the 2022 Cup had been "bought" by the Qataris.
According to the report, Valcke told Warner that Mohamed bin Hammam, the Qatari representative and the man spearheading the nation's bid to land the 2022 tournament, had bought the bid, and that he was surprised bin Hammam would challenge current president Sepp Blatter for the sport's governing body's top position.
Per Valcke's e-mail:
"For MBH [Bin Hammam], I never understood why he was running. If really he thought he had a chance or just being an extreme way to express how much he does not like anymore JSB [Blatter]. Or he thought you can buy FIFA as they bought the WC."
If you're bin Hammam, who has been brought up on corruption charges after American CONCACAF executive Chuck Blazer accused him of attempting to buy votes in Wednesday's FIFA presidential election, this is not the kind of news you want out there. Valcke's email, combined with an alleged photograph of the bribe money given to Caribbean nations, makes things awfully sticky for the Asian Football Confederation's president.
How did we reach this point? It all began when Blazer claimed bin Hammam and Warner tried to buy votes at a meeting in Trinidad on May 10 and 11. There, Blazer alleged that the pair offered $40,000 in return for votes, which was photographed by a different representative at the conference.
Per ESPN's report on the photo:
Fred Lunn, the vice-president of the Bahamas FA, was one of the first to go up to the room where he was handed a large brown envelope. When he opened it "stacks of US 100 fell out and on to the table. I was stunned to see this cash", he said in an affidavit which was presented to FIFA's ethics committee on Sunday.
Lunn said he was not authorised to accept such a gift but was urged to do so by a CFU official. He decided to hold on to the money and contact his association's president Anton Sealey, which he did by text message.
Sealey then called Lunn and told him "under no circumstances would the Bahamas FA accept such a cash gift" and that he should return the 40,000 dollars.
Lunn took a picture of the money before he replaced it in the envelope, and when he returned to the conference room to hand it back he had to wait while other officials queued to go in.
He texted Sealey saying "a lot of the boys taking the cash, this is sad given the breaking news on the TV CNN... I'm truly surprise its happening at this conference" [sic].
After that, bin Hammam lashed out, firing charges at current FIFA president Sepp Blatter. Bin Hammam claimed that Blatter knew of corruption in the executive committee but did nothing to prevent it or make it public.
Both men were brought up on charges (as was Warner), but Blatter was acquitted, while Warner and bin Hammam were charged, meaning a further inquiry is pending for them. Now, it seems as though bin Hammam may have attempted to hijack the voting regarding the 2022 World Cup as well, a charge that could have long-lasting implications for the organization and could effectively end the Qatari executive's career in the sport for good.
Most knew that he was in trouble before Valcke's e-mail, but the combination of the e-mail and this alleged photographic evidence is truly the worst-case scenario. Suddenly, the idea of corruption is not only confirmed by a high-ranking FIFA executive (who has never been linked to any kind of corruption issue), but also by photographic evidence that suggests the Qatari was attempting to buy the FIFA presidency as well.
The accusations bin Hammam faces suddenly have a base to stand on, courtesy of Valcke and the photographs and accompanying backstory.
It's unclear just where FIFA will go from here. Clearly, evidence is mounting that something illicit happened here with bin Hammam and Qatar. They have no evidence of the bribe for the World Cup bid at this point, but given the clear evidence of attempted bribes in his run for the presidency, it stands to reason that he would have employed similar tactics to garner votes for his country's World Cup bid.
In the end, this already serious scandal has gone supernova with these latest revelations. Valcke's e-mail hints that the corruption alleged by Lord Triesman regarding the executive committee's votes was not so far off base and implies a deep-seated corruption running through the highest ranks of FIFA's executive committee.
While Blatter himself may not have been involved, these charges could potentially impact him and his legacy in the game. This is something FIFA must address immediately, and swift action must be taken to prevent things like this from ever happening again.
As for Mohamed bin Hammam, his career is effectively over at this point, as it's impossible to recover from accusations like these.