FIFA Corruption Scandal: Follow The Money To Qatar
And let’s not forget they fund Hamas too. Forbes:
With FIFA in the eye of the storm, it’s been easy to overlook the role of Qatar in arousing the latest round of suspicion regarding the World Cup and corruption in global soccer. Over the past several years, the government of Qatar has been involved in a meticulous plan to exchange its vast natural resource riches for global influence, targeting soccer—among other things—in particular. And while that, in of itself, isn’t a bad thing, the Qatari bid for the 2022 World Cup is being investigated by Swiss Authorities, as Qatar has positioned itself as one of the key players in elite football.
In 2010, and after years of intense competition, soccer’s global governing body—FIFA—awarded Russia and Qatar the right to host the world’s most important, and valuable, sporting event in 2018 and 2022 respectively. Qatar, a nation of just over two million inhabitants with little to no history in top-flight soccer, shocked everyone.
The gulf country that derives over 50% of its GDP from the oil and gas sector was an unlikely candidate for several reasons. From a lack of infrastructure to excessive heat, Qatar appeared as the least prepared among the list of candidates, which included Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the United States.
An expected $200 billion investment, along with a close connection with FIFA President Sepp Blatter, helped them prevail.
Yet, Qatar’s influence on global soccer goes deeper. Through a sports network that is present in Europe, North America, the Middle East, and Asia, the Qatari government is also one of the major players in the lucrative business of sports broadcasting. BeIN Sports, previously known as Al-Jazeera Sport, first entered the European market through France in 2011, snatching the rights to broadcast the first division of French soccer for four years, along with the UEFA Champions League, the Europa League, and the 2012 and 2016 Euro. The rumored price tag: $430 million a year.
Government-backed Qatari Airways is also the main jersey sponsor for FC Barcelona, the world’s second most valuable soccer team. They signed a 5-year deal worth some $38 million per season back in 2010, essentially making Lionel Messi a walking billboard.
To top it off, through Qatar Sports Investments—an arm of the country’s sovereign wealth fund—they secured control over France’s most traditional side, Paris Saint-Germain, which they fully acquired in 2012 at a valuation of $130 million, investing heavily to bring superstars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic to make bring the team back into the upper echelons of world football. In 2015, they knocked Chelsea off Europe’s most prestigious tournament, the aforementioned Champions League, before going on to lose against an increasingly powerful Barcelona, which made it all the way to the final.
What ultimately calls into questions Qatar’s investments is the involvement of Mohammed bin Hammam, the former president of the Asian Football Federation and a man who used to be a close ally of recently reelected FIFA President Sepp Blatter. Bin Hammam is seen as instrumental in having helped Qatar secured the 2022 World Cup, and is accused of handing out bribes to garner support for a personal candidacy for the presidency of FIFA, as he sought to take his former supporter’s throne in 2011. Even though he’s not mentioned by name in the U.S. Department of Justice indictment, he was ultimately banned for life from all football-related activity. With Swiss and American authorities on the prowl, the role of Qatar, and its increasing influence in matters related to soccer’s most important organizations, will be under intense scrutiny.