ABU DHABI // Controversy around Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid is set to be reignited by the publishing of the full Fifa report into alleged corruption that was kept secret by the world football body and led to the resignation of its lead investigator.
On Tuesday, the German newspaper Bild began a two-part publication of a 2014 report by the independent ethics investigator, US attorney Michael Garcia, into allegations of bribery around the 2010 bidding process that resulted in Russia and Qatar hosting the world's second-largest sporting event in 2018 and 2022 respectively.
Fifa published a short summary of Mr Garcia's report in 2014, which led him to disown it publicly and resign in protest. The full 430-page report was kept secret by the organisation but Bild claims to have obtained the document in its entirety.
The first extract published in Bild on Monday alleged that US$2 million (Dh7.3m) was sent to the bank account of the 10-year-old daughter of a Fifa official prior to the announcement that Qatar had won the bid to host the World Cup. Bild also reported that a former Fifa official thanked Qatari football federation members after receiving "several thousand euros" after the 2022 decision was announced.
Three of Fifa's voting executive members also flew to Brazil on a private jet belonging to the Qatari federation ahead of the vote. The shelved report also found that Qatar's Aspire Academy, an elite sports training school, was "implicated in a decisive manner in the manipulation of Fifa members who had the right to vote". Aspire was used by Qatar to "curry favour" with Fifa officials and "those actions served to undermine the integrity of the bidding process," Mr Garcia wrote in the full report, according to Bild.
After Mr Garcia submitted his findings in 2014, Fifa released only a summary, claiming his investigation had found only "potentially problematic facts and circumstances” that did not compromise the awarding of the two world cups.
Mr Garcia then quit and publicly accused Fifa’s ethics judge Joachim Eckert of “erroneous representations”.
While it is still unlikely that the publication of Mr Garcia’s full report will be enough to derail Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup, it does reveal why criminal investigations by European and US law enforcement over the bidding process are continuing and why a number of Fifa officials have already been arrested.
The Bild journalist who obtained the report, Peter Rossberg, said on Facebook that the full report "does not provide the proof that the 2018 or 2022 World Cup was bought" but that it is another piece in the larger puzzle of allegedly far-reaching, endemic corruption at Fifa. He said that there are "no surprises" in the full report, as aspects of the bidding process have been partly reported before.
Qatar’s plans to host the tournament have been plagued with financial and public relations setbacks. The drop in oil and gas prices has badly squeezed budgets across the GCC and arrived as Qatar was spending $10m a day on the stadium and infrastructure projects. Labour rights watchdogs have criticised the working conditions of the migrant construction workers, hundreds of whom have died on the job.
The isolation of Qatar by three of its GCC neighbours has also raised questions about the viability of the tournament if the boycott persists.