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Pressure mounts for new 2022 World Cup vote

LiveMint logoLiveMint 02-06-2014 Timothy Witcher

Paris: Pressure mounted on Monday for FIFA to call a new vote on the 2022 World Cup hosts with Australia declaring that corruption accusations against controversial winners Qatar were a “serious development”.

British government and football officials have also said a new vote should be held if accusations that a top Qatari official made slush fund payments to secure support are proved.

FIFA has not yet commented on reports by the Sunday Times newspaper that Mohamed bin Hammam, a former FIFA vice president from Qatar, paid more than $5 million to football officials around the world before the 2010 vote that awarded the 2022 contest to the Gulf state.

Qatar has strongly denied the allegations and vowed to “defend the integrity” of its bid.

Some reports have said Michael Garcia, a top US lawyer heading a FIFA investigation into the vote, was to meet Qatari officials in Oman on Monday. The encounter has not been officially confirmed however.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) said on Monday it may re-submit its bid to host the 2022 tournament after the corruption allegations emerged.

Australia was one of the defeated candidates, along with South Korea, Japan and the US at the FIFA vote in December 2010.

“It’s a serious development, they’re serious allegations and we’re looking to see what the response to that will be,” FFA chief executive David Gallop told Australian radio.

Gallop said the FFA had been “heavily involved” in FIFA’s corruption investigation and had provided documents and interviews to Garcia, who is due to hand over a report to a FIFA ethics committee this year.

In the first FIFA executive vote on the 2022 contest, Qatar received 11 votes, South Korea four, the US and Japan three each and Australia one.

Qatar went on to beat the US 14 votes to eight in the fourth round.

US officials have not yet commented. South Korea said it would wait for “confirmed facts” before deciding its position.

“These are not confirmed facts as yet and it would be premature to comment. Our position has not been decided,” an official from the Korea Football Association (KFA) said.

Another KFA official said: “We will await the outcome of any FIFA probe and then follow its decision.”

Japan did not immediately comment. But it has previously indicated that it would also be ready to stand in if there were problems with Qatar’s bid.

AFC concern over reports

Asia Football Confederation (AFC) President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, meanwhile, expressed his grave concern over the media reports calling into question Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 tournament.

An AFC statement quoted Sheihk Salman as saying that “hosting the FIFA World Cup in Asia, especially in the Middle East, means a lot to the continent and he is looking forward to seeing a successful FIFA World Cup in Qatar”.

The choice of Qatar shocked many people because of the searing heat that any summer matches will be played in.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter wants the 2022 event moved to the northern winter. Critics have also highlighted the Qatar’s lack of a football tradition.

The Sunday Times newspaper said it had obtained emails, documents and bank transfers relating to alleged payments made by Hammam to get a “groundswell” of support for the wealthy emirate’s bid.

Hammam was banned from world football in 2011 after being caught bribing voters in his campaign to be elected FIFA president. Qatar has since disowned the official.

“We vehemently deny all allegations of wrong-doing,” said Qatar’s World Cup organising committee in a statement released on Sunday.

“We will take whatever steps are necessary to defend the integrity of Qatar’s bid and our lawyers are looking into this matter.”

The Qatari committee again strongly denied that Hamman played any active role in its campaign to win the tournament.

FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce, from Northern Ireland, said that if there if “concrete evidence” of corruption is shown then he would back a new vote on 2022.

English Football Association chief Greg Dyke also said there should be a new vote if there was a “corrupt system” in the 2010 vote.

FIFA investigator Garcia is also looking into a vote in 2010 that awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia. England was one of the losing candidates in that vote.

Most major football powers have held back from commenting on the new accusations. But former Russian Football Union president Vyacheslav Koloskov described the new allegations as part of a British “witch hunt”.

“We shall take into consideration that it was the British who initiated the new wave of witchhunt,” he said.

“Earlier, they tried to accuse Russia and the other countries as well. They just cannot accept defeat in the race for the right to host the World Cup. Three and a half years have passed since the votes were held. They had plenty of time to furnish evidence if they had anything real.”

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