Call to re-run 2022 bid process
Pressure was growing today for a re-run of the bidding process for the 2022 World Cup after claims emerged of corruption in Qatar's successful bid to host the tournament.
The bid committee denied any wrongdoing but calls were mounting for a new vote if the bribery allegations are true.
The Sunday Times said it had seen a cache of documents which exposed that Qatar's victory was sealed by a covert campaign by disgraced former football official Mohamed bin Hammam.
The newspaper said the former Qatari vice president of Fifa, world football's governing body, used secret slush funds to make dozens of payments totalling more than five million dollars (£2.9m) to senior football officials to create a groundswell of support for Qatar's bid.
It said he used 10 slush funds controlled by his private company and cash handouts to make dozens of payments of up to 200,000 dollars (£120,000) into accounts controlled by the presidents of African football associations who held sway over how the continent's four executive members would vote.
Greg Dyke, chairman of the Football Association, told Channel 4 News: "Some of this evidence on the face of it is quite compelling.
"If the evidence is there, that the process is corrupt, then obviously the process has to be looked at again."
Shadow international development secretary Jim Murphy called for the decision to be "cancelled and re-run" if the allegations were found to be true.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics: "I think the Qatar decision has always been controversial of course, but sometimes it was seen by the Qataris as sour grapes from the English or others across Britain. But if these allegations and the contents of the emails that The Sunday Times now has turn out to be true there can be no question about this.
"The thing wasn't done fairly, it wasn't done openly and it would have to be cancelled and re-run entirely. The building that is happening in Qatar should be paused and they should have a fair and open competition. The failure to do so would amount to the biggest crisis in Fifa since its formation in 1904."
Sports Minister Helen Grant said tonight: "These appear to be very serious allegations. It is essential that major sporting events are awarded in an open, fair and transparent manner."
Clive Efford, Labour's shadow sport minister, said: "This issue calls the governance of football into question. No one will have any confidence in a Fifa investigation run by (Fifa president) Sepp Blatter.
"If these allegations are true then those involved should resign.
"Fifa must take urgent action and reopen the bidding for the 2022 World Cup if it wants to restore its credibility."
John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee, said: "My committee examined allegations two years ago that there had been corrupt payments involved in the decision, and we called for a full, transparent investigation. However, since then, Fifa have attempted to brush off the allegations and not taken them anything like sufficiently seriously.
"If these revelations in the Sunday Times prove to be correct they are obviously extremely serious.
"There does need to be an urgent and full transparent investigation to establish the facts."
Mr Whittingdale said Mr Blatter's position was "almost untenable" as he had been very dismissive of the allegations over the past couple of years and did not appear to have taken them seriously.
"There have already been serious doubts raised about the capability of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup on football grounds. If the choice of Qatar was as a result of improper payments being made, then that strengthens an already strong case for re-running the whole 2022 contest."
The Qatar 2022 Bid Committee said it had always upheld the highest standard of ethics and integrity in its successful bid to host the World Cup.
It said in a statement: "In regard to the latest allegations from The Sunday Times, we say again that Mohamed bin Hammam played no official or unofficial role in Qatar's 2022 Bid Committee. As was the case with every other member of Fifa's executive committee, our bid team had to convince Mr bin Hammam of the merits of our bid."
It said it was cooperating fully with the ongoing investigation of Fifa's Michael Garcia and remained totally confident that any objective inquiry would conclude it won the bid to host the World Cup fairly.
It added: "Following today's newspaper articles, we vehemently deny all allegations of wrongdoing. We will take whatever steps are necessary to defend the integrity of Qatar's bid and our lawyers are looking into this matter.
"The right to host the tournament was won because it was the best bid and because it is time for the Middle East to host its first Fifa World Cup."
The Sunday Times said the official Qatar bid committee had always insisted Bin Hammam was an entirely separate individual who had nothing to do with the campaign to take the World Cup to Doha.
The newspaper said the bid committee was quick to disown him when he was banned from world football in 2011 after being caught bribing voters in his campaign to be elected Fifa president.
But the leaked documents show how he worked with the leaders of the bid and lobbied key voters, arranging lavish junkets paid for by the 2022 team at which he offered football officials large payments in exchange for their support, the newspaper said.