Qatar denies running 'black ops' sabotage campaign against rivals for World Cup

The claims will add fuel to calls for Qatar to be stripped of the World Cup

Qatar denies running 'black ops' sabotage campaign against rivals for World Cup

An exterior view of the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, 04-01-20218. Image: Sven Hoppe/DPA/PA Images

The Qatar World Cup organising team has rejected claims it ran a secret campaign to sabotage its rivals during the campaign for the right to host the tournament.

This morning, The Sunday Times reported that the country’s bid team ran secret “black operations” campaign to discredit its rivals.

The paper said emails from a whistleblower reveal the bidder hired a PR agency and former CIA operatives to put out fake propaganda about its main competitors, the United States and Australia.

The disinformation campaign allegedly involved recruiting prominent figures to criticise the bids in their own countries, in an effort to give the impression that they lacked support at home.

Denial

In a statement this morning, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said: "The Supreme Committee rejects each and every allegation put forward by the Sunday Times.

"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."

The revelations will add fuel to calls for Qatar to be stripped of the World Cup.

An exterior view of the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, 04-01-20218. Image: Sven Hoppe/DPA/PA Images

Whistleblower

The Sunday Times was given the documents by a whistleblower who worked for the Qatar campaign.

The paper reports that the whistleblower has also testified to the UK House Of Commons Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee.

FIFA said it had already carried out an investigation into the bid – and had found no wrongdoing.

According to FIFA's rules, bidders must "refrain from making any written or oral statements of any kind, whether adverse or otherwise, about the bids or candidatures of any other member association which has expressed an interest in hosting and staging the competitions."

Smear Campaign

The alleged smear campaign reportedly included paying a professor $9,000 (€7,710) to write a highly-critical report on the economic cost of hosting a tournament in the US.

It reportedly also saw journalists and bloggers recruited to promote negative stories in the media.

The report claims the campaign saw grassroots protests organised at Australian rugby matches.

It is also claimed a group of American PE teachers were recruited to ask congressmen to oppose a US World Cup bid, because the money would be better spent on school sports.

Corruption

The Qatar bid team has been accused of corruption before, but was cleared after a two-year investigation by FIFA's ethics committee.

A FIFA spokesperson said: "Concerning the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process, a thorough investigation was conducted by Michael Garcia and his conclusions are available in the report, which has been published on FIFA.com."

"Generally speaking, complaints regarding potential breaches of the FIFA Code of Ethics may be filed via FIFA's confidential reporting mechanism."

Independent investigation

Damian Collins – head of the UK House Of Commons Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee called for a full independent investigation of the allegations.

He said it would be a "very serious matter" if the country was found to have broken the rules.

Noting that corruption allegations have seen FIFA facing a “big loss of confidence” internationally in recent years, he said the latest claims represent an "opportunity to demonstrate that FIFA takes these issues much more seriously than it has done."

Additional reporting IRN ...