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Tue 12 Jul 2011 11:35 AM

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World Cup bribery claims result of anti-Arab prejudice: Qatar bid chief

Al Thawadi says there was 'not a shred of evidence' to back public allegations that Qatar bribed FIFA execs

World Cup bribery claims result of anti-Arab prejudice: Qatar bid chief
FIFA SCANDAL: Al Thawadi maintained that no underhand transactions took place (Getty Images)

Public allegations that Qatar bribed FIFA executives to secure its position as host of the 2022 World Cup were a result of “anti-Arab prejudice”, the head of the successful Qatari bid has said.

In an interview with the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Hassan Al Thawadi said there was “not a shred of evidence” to support the claims, and that he was disappointed by the House of Commons select committee’s handling of the situation.

"I do not believe these claims are being made out of racism," he told the daily, "but I genuinely think that ignorance fed into prejudice and made it a more fertile ground for these rumours to take seed and grow.

“I do believe there is prejudice against the fact that we are a rich, Arab nation – yes, I think there is genuine prejudice there."

Al Thawadi’s remarks come just days after the “whistleblower” came forward with a statement to say she had made the whole thing up.

After signing a legal affadavit retracting the allegations, Phaedra Al Majid, a former international media officer for Qatar 2022 said “it was all lies”, and an attempt to "hurt" the bid after she was removed from her job in March 2010.

Had the allegations not been made public by the House of Commons select committee for culture, media and sport before an investigation had been carried out, rumours would not have been perpetuated, Al Thawadi said.

According to reports, the committee received news of the allegations from executives at the Sunday Times, who had not published them and warned the committee they were unproven.

The committee published them anyway, and without inquiring about the story’s validity or giving the bid any notice of the claims, by relying on the legal defence of parliamentary privilege.

Chairman of the select committee John Whittingdale said they published the allegations because FIFA would not investigate, but at the time, FIFA had not been presented with the information by the Sunday Times.

"I do feel absolute surprise and disappointment," Thawadi said in the interview with the Guardian. “I understand and respect parliamentary privilege, but my country's reputation and my bid's reputation is being sullied, tarnished, because of these allegations."

Claims that Qatar was only given the opportunity to host the World Cup due to dirty dealings came about not long after the Gulf state was named the winning bidder.

The accusation against the OPEC member state was that three African FIFA executive committee members were paid $1.5m (£0.94m) but Qatari officials to secure their votes.

Allegations were based on a statement from the bid’s media officer, Al Majid, as well as a statement revealed in a leaked email by FIFA's general-secretary Jérôme Valcke.

The email, which said that “Qatar bought the World Cup”, has since been defended Valcke, who said he was referring to Qatar’s large budget, not suggesting corruption.

Al Thawadi acknowledged being awarded a significant budget by the Qatari government to market and support the bid, but maintained that no underhand transactions took place.

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Anonymous 8 years ago

It is not Arab prejudice but there are a lot of reasonably intelligent people who are wondering why FIFA would award the World Cup, which held in the summer, to a country where temperatures will be 40 to 45 if not hotter. It has nothing to do with your money or your heritage. It would be the same if Qatar had won the winter Olympics with the same philosophy of "we have 12 years to build all the facilities including mountains with snow, ice rinks, etc. and the money to do it". Can you do it? Sure, possibly, but would it make sense to award the winter Olympics to someone else? Yes.

FIFA wants to expand its "customer base" so to speak. Qatar has promised to spend billions and deliver a great World Cup. FIFA is giving you your opportunity so we all wish you luck. Have you over-promised what you can deliver???? Time will tell...

Anil 8 years ago

What this article is indirectly saying that FIFA is actually unbelievably thick to award the World Cup to be held in ambient conditions of above 50 degrees centigrade.

In all likelihood, B-grade or C-grade teams will land up to play while the megastars cool their heels at home. Watch out for a spate of crippling injuries among football's megastars in May 2022.

Lionheart 8 years ago

" Yes , we are a rich Arab nation ".....Those comments alone don't endear him to the masses.
It's not prejudice it's simple fact . Nobody wants the worlds greates sporting event in a country which has regular 50 degree temps . It's not over until the fat lady sings and i'm afraid she's waiting in the wings on the Corniche......

Basel A-Shaban 8 years ago

Anti-Arab prejudice is live and well with or without the World Cup. If you're and Arab, you really do not need to look hard to experience said prejudice in Europe or the US, it is right there, upfront and personal.

Lee 8 years ago

You may hate the rich and their bad human rights track record, but is there anything else other than the HEAT?

Ahmed 8 years ago

I think that world sporting events should only be confined to countries with good weather, ie Europe, US, and a few other countries here and there. Who cares about the rest of the world.