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World Cup 2022: Qatar bid team accused of secret campaign to sabotage rivals

The Qatar 2022 World Cup bid team ran a secret campaign in 2010 to sabotage competing host bids, according to a report published by the Sunday Times.

The paper claims to have seen leaked documents that show the Qatari bid team employed a US PR firm and ex-CIA agents to smear its rivals – mainly the United States and Australia.

The alleged aim was to create propaganda to give the impression that a World Cup would not be supported domestically, but such a campaign would have broken Fifa’s bidding rules.

Qatar beat rival bids from the United States, Australia, South Korea and Japan to the right to host the 2022 World Cup.

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Fifa’s rules say World Cup bidders should not make “any written or oral statements of any kind, whether adverse or otherwise, about the bids or candidatures of any other member association”.

The Qatar bid team has been previously accused of corruption but was cleared following a two-year Fifa inquiry.

The documents seen by the Sunday Times – which the paper says were leaked by a whistleblower who worked on the 2022 bid team – were apparently unavailable during the Fifa inquiry.

The Qatar bid team is alleged to have employed the New York office of communications company Brown Lloyd Jones, which is now BLJ Worldwide, along with a team of former intelligence officers to run a campaign aimed at undermining one of Fifa’s key criteria in the bidding process – that each bid should have strong backing at home.

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Nether the Qatar 2022 World Cup bid team or BLJ Worldwide responded to requests for comment from The Sunday Times.

A Fifa statement said “a thorough investigation was conducted by Michael Garcia and his conclusions are available in the report”, referring to the completed two-year inquiry.

Qatar won the right to stage the tournament in December 2010. Russia was awarded the 2018 World Cup at the same time, beating three other bids including England.

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