FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke has challenged those making corruption allegations concerning the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to provide solid proof backing up their accusations.
France Football magazine last month dedicated an entire issue to what it claimed were suspicious activities surrounding Qatar’s successful bid for the 2022 tournament. Valcke said FIFA’s Ethics Committee would take action upon the presentation of solid evidence of corrupt activities, but reiterated that current claims have consisted of little more than hearsay. “For the whole process of the attribution of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, FIFA put in place a system of checks to ensure the candidates responded in a manner that was the most transparent possible,” Valcke told French newspaper L’Equipe. “We’ve never received the least shred of proof nor suspicion of corruption for 2018 or 2022. If there is corruption, proof is needed. Those who are talking about it have to provide proof. If that’s the case the ethics commission will intervene.”
The latest round of accusations came after a senior organising committee official in December stated Qatar 2022’s World Cup victory had been “singled out” for “harsh criticism”. Qatar 2022 communications and marketing director Nasser Al Khater said that the organisation had been “singled out and criticised for no fault of our own” ever since it won the bid in December 2010, adding that ongoing criticism is part of a “smear campaign” from certain sections of the media. Al Khater spoke just days after Russia 2018 chief executive Alexey Sorokin hit out at criticism that both Russia and Qatar won their bids unfairly. Although direct allegations have never been made, the voting process for the two tournaments was called into question after two FIFA executive committee members were suspended before the decision following a British newspaper investigation into vote-trading. Al Khater also rejected suggestions that Qatar won the right to stage the 2022 World Cup mainly due to the influence of controversial former FIFA Executive Committee member and Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam.
Valcke has expressed his belief that the geo-political nature of the bidding process and the subsequent high-profile lobbying of powerful figures outside football before the December 2010 vote meant any potential wrongdoing could not be covered up. He added: “It was a mini-G20 we had in Zurich. There was (former US President) Bill Clinton, the British, Belgian, Dutch and Spanish prime ministers. How can you imagine we would take the risk that, if there were the slightest piece of information about corruption, we would not disclose it? If we knew (about corruption), at FIFA, whether it be the president, the general secretary or any other person, if there was something, do you think we would have stayed quiet about it?”