Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy “colluded” with football’s European governing body to award Qatar the rights to host the FIFA World Cup 2022, a French magazine claimed.
French Football magazine published a 20-page article on Tuesday headlined ‘Le Qatargate’, which detailed a November 2010 dinner at the Elysée Palace involving Sarkozy, UEFA chief Michel Platini and the Crown Prince of Qatar.
The magazine suggests Sarkozy pressured Platini to switch his allegiance from bidding in favour of the US to Qatar in the FIFA vote nine days later.
During the meeting, the Qataris discussed the possibility that they would buy the football club Paris Saint-Germain and establish a new TV sports channel in France. While the magazine stopped short of alleging a deal was struck at the meeting, it said “all of the elements” were “discussed”.
Oil and gas rich Qatar paid €50m (US$67m) for Paris Saint-Germain in 2011 and last year its state-owned Al Jazeera network created French sports channel beIN Sport.
Qatar beat bids by the US and South Korea to win the right to host the 2022 World Cup. It will be the first time the tournament has ever been hosted in the Middle East.
The decision to allow the tiny Gulf state to host the tournament has drawn criticism over issues ranging from searing summer temperatures to labour rights and alcohol sales.
FIFA is under growing pressure to reverse the decision amid doubts about Qatar’s ability to reduce the temperatures during the matches.
Platini and Qatar 2022 have both hit back at claims in French Football. “I reserve the right to sue anyone who questions my integrity in this vote,” Platini said in a statement.
“To believe that my choice to vote for Qatar 2022 was in exchange for agreements between the French state and Qatar is pure speculation and are only the views of those who write these lies,” he added.
A Qatar 2022 spokesperson told Insider magazine that “none of these allegations have substance”.
“Our successful bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup was conducted in accordance with the highest moral and ethical standards and integrity from start to finish, strictly adhering to bidding rules and regulations for bidding nations,” he added.