Fifa last night faced a growing clamour for a re-run of the vote to decide the 2022 World Cup host after a cache of leaked documents reportedly revealed how a senior Qatari fixer paid millions of pounds to African football officials to back the emirate's successful campaign.
Mohamed bin Hammam, a former Fifa vice-president, paid $5m (£3m) from 10 slush funds he controlled to influence the African bloc vote, according to The Sunday Times, in what is likely to be the first of a series of damning corruption allegations in the run-up to this year's tournament in Brazil.
The newspaper claimed to have received millions of emails, phone records, accounts and other files from a senior Fifa insider that showed how Mr Bin Hammam wooed senior African football diplomats with lavish hospitality and cash as part of a campaign to secure the continent's four votes for the secret ballot held in 2010.
Qatari officials insisted the disgraced Mr Bin Hammam was not linked to their campaign and vowed to "defend the integrity" of their bid. However, the country's claims were undermined by comments two years ago from the head of its bid team, who described Mr Bin Hammam as its "biggest asset".
The newspaper also claimed that Mr Bin Hammam paid disgraced Fifa vice-president Jack Warner – former football chief for the Caribbean – more than $1.6m in a series of payments both before and after the ballot.
The revelations prompted demands for further investigations and a possible re-run of the vote, including from the head of the Dutch FA, politicians and footballers.
"The thing wasn't done fairly, it wasn't done openly and it would have to be cancelled and re-run entirely," said shadow international development secretary Jim Murphy told the BBC. Greg Dyke, chairman of the Football Association, said: "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."
The leaked documents allegedly showed that Mr Bin Hammam made dozens of payments to the heads of more than 30 African nations, which started before Qatar's bid was formally submitted in 2009.
They included claims that:
The football world was stunned when Qatar won the 2022 vote ahead of rival bidders Australia, South Korea, Japan and the United States. Fifa's own technical team had branded Qatar "high risk" because of the summer heat.
The emirate has since been dogged by bad publicity, including allegations of corruption and the deaths of hundreds of Asian workers during the building of venues. The head of a Fifa inquiry, New York lawyer Michael Garcia, is due to interview members of the 2022 Qatari committee in Oman from this week. Mr Garcia had not planned to interview Mr Bin Hammam after the official bid team insisted that he had nothing to do with the campaign.
Mr Bin Hammam, a construction magnate, was banned from world football in 2011 after being caught trying to bribe voters in his bid to succeed Sepp Blatter as the head of Fifa.
The Qatari bid team said that Mr Bin Hammam had never worked for them and had no knowledge of any improper activities. It said: "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."
Mr Bin Hammam did not respond to requests for comment. Mr Warner said the claims were "baseless allegations and innuendoes" and said the money he received was for help with losses he suffered from an earthquake in China. The Liberian Sports Minister, Eugene Nagbe, told the newspaper that Mr Weah had never influenced the vote for Qatar 2022 and his contribution to the game "remained exemplary and irreproachable."