Qatar’s World Cup bid team for the 2022 tournament broke FIFA rules by running secret operations to sabotage rivals, according to reports.
UK publication The Sunday Times cited leaked emails from a whistleblower as confirming the Qatari team had paid a public relations firm and former CIA agents to distribute fake news about opposing bids from the United States and Australia.
The campaign included recruiting influential people from within the two countries to attack their own bids to create the impression there was “zero support” for a football World Cup domestically, it said.
Among them a $9,000 payment to a US academic to write a report critical of the economic impact of about a tournament hosted in the country.
Another email from the Qatari bid’s deputy CEO, Ali Al Thawadi, showed the state was aware of efforts to “poison” rivals including plans to see a motion against the US bid filed in congress, according to the publication.
FIFA rules forbid campaign from written or oral statements of any kind about the bids or candidatures of any other member association.
Brown Llyod Jones, the public relations firm employed by the Qatari campaign, was described as recruiting bloggers, journalists and other individuals to spread negative news about rival bids for the 2022 tournament.
“For the past 4 months, we have undertaken an extensive campaign to undermine the 2018/2022 candidacies of competitor countries,” an email sent from the firm to the Qatar bid teams reads.
The documents are the latest in a series of revelations that have brought into question Qatar’s securing of the 2022 tournament, which took many by surprise given the country’s unsuitable summer temperatures and lack of sporting infrastructure or history.
In January, a whistleblower from Australia’s failed 2022, bid alleged that Qatar’s state broadcaster agreed a $100m payment to FIFA if it secured the finals.
Bonita Mersiades also alleged that disgraced former FIFA president Sepp Blatter knew Qatar would win days before the December 2010 vote and phoned US President Barack Obama to inform him.
Recently Gulf states that have led a boycott of Qatar since June 2017 over its alleged support of terrorist groups have suggested the country should be stripped of the tournament.