Qatar rebuts claims of 'black ops' in Cup bid

LONDON • Qatar's World Cup bid team used a secret "black operations" propaganda campaign to undermine rivals in violation of Fifa rules, a British newspaper has reported.

The Sunday Times claims that whistle-blower e-mails show the bid team paid a public relations firm as well as former Central Intelligence Agency agents to disseminate "fake propaganda" about main rivals Australia and the United States during their campaign to host the 2022 competition.

Qatar's strategy was to recruit influential individuals in order to attack bids in their native countries, creating the impression there was "zero support" to host the World Cup among the population, the paper said.

Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy yesterday said it rejected all claims made by the paper and added: "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."

One of the core criteria considered by Fifa, world football's governing body, is that the bids should have strong backing from respective domestic populations.

  • $12,300 

    Amount allegedly paid to a US academic for a report detailing the burden of the US hosting the World Cup.

Bidders are also prohibited from making "any written or oral statement of any kind, whether adverse or otherwise, about the bids or candidatures of any other member association" under Fifa guidelines.

But one of the leaked e-mails the newspaper claims to have obtained was sent to Qatar's deputy bid leader, Ali al-Thawadi, and allegedly shows the state was aware of plots to spread "poison" against other bidders in the running before Qatar won the right in December 2010 to host the Cup.

Such actions went as far as planning a resolution for the US Congress on the "harmful" effects of the American World Cup proposition during the week of the vote, as well as approaching and paying a US professor US$9,000 (S$12,300) to compose a report on the economic burden the competition would present.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2018, with the headline 'Qatar rebuts claims of 'black ops' in Cup bid'. Print Edition | Subscribe