Russia and Qatar could have their right to host the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups withdrawn if there is evidence of corruption in their bids, a FIFA official said today. Domenico Scala made the statement to the Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung, Reuters reports.
“If evidence should emerge that the awards to Qatar and Russia only came about thanks to bought votes, then the awards could be invalidated.”
Scala added that “this evidence has not yet been brought forth.”
His statements come shortly after a whistleblower, Phaedra Al-Majid, who worked on Qatar’s bid, said that the nation will lose the right to hold the championship, according to the Daily Mail. Al-Majid is currently in protective custody and says she fears for her safety and that of her family. She argues that FIFA need to make sure they don’t award the World Cup, one of the most prestigious sporting tournaments in the world, to nations which abuse human rights.
“As for FIFA, they talk of reform but the biggest reform they should make in the process around the World Cup is to introduce a human rights pillar. The World Cup should not be awarded to countries that don’t respect human rights.”
Both Russia and Qatar have denied wrongdoing.
The possibility of the World Cups being hosted elsewhere has been met with positive reactions on Twitter, with political scientist Ian Bremmer saying such an action could make him a fan.
I’m not a particular football fan, but if Russia and Qatar lose their Cups I’ll convert.
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) June 7, 2015
According to BBC News, Swiss authorities have also started looking into alleged corruption at FIFA. The news of alleged voting fraud comes alongside claims that Morrocco should have held the 2010 World Cup, not South Africa. In tapes created as part of an investigation by the Sunday Times five years ago, high-ranking FIFA member Ismail Bhamjee told the journalist that Morocco had won by two votes, and that the votes may have been deliberately miscounted. The tapes were allegedly given to FIFA five years ago, according to the Independent, with Sepp Blatter claimed to be amongst the recipients.
In response, FIFA issued a scathing statement, seemingly telling the Times to butt out.
“It cannot have escaped even the Sunday Times’ attention that these matters are being investigated by the proper authorities, i.e. government agencies not newspapers. And Fifa is fully cooperating with these investigations.”
The Justice Minister for Trinidad and Tobago, Prakash Ramadhar, has said that Jack Warner, former President of CONCACAF, who received payments totaling $10 million on behalf of South Africa in 2008, should hand himself in. Warner was arrested on May 29 but was released on bail. When asked by Sky News whether Warner should hand himself in to American authorities in New York, the minister simply replied “that is what we are asking for.”
Warner is currently on Interpol’s red notice list, with the organization listing his charges as racketeering conspiracy, two counts of wire fraud conspiracy, two counts of wire fraud, two counts of money laundering conspiracy, and money laundering. Warner denies any wrongdoing.
The ongoing probe into alleged corruption at FIFA, and of alleged bribery around World Cup bids, seems likely to go on for some time yet.
[Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]