A soon-to-be-released book, written by a member of Australia’s 2022 World Cup bid team, details more alleged bribery surrounding the infamous vote that awarded the tournament to Qatar.
Among the information and allegations revealed for the first time in the book: Disgraced former FIFA president Sepp Blatter says that he, along with U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, phoned then-United States President Barack Obama days before the vote because he was so sure Qatar would win it.
Bonita Mersiades, the Australian bid insider-turned-whistleblower, interviewed Blatter extensively for the book. An advance summary was published by the Mail on Sunday late Saturday night, along with excerpts.
In one excerpt, Blatter says that then-UEFA president Michel Platini told him that several members of the 22-man voting Executive Committee were going to back Qatar. When asked what he did when he found out, Blatter divulged the phone call:
“I called President Obama. With Sunil.” He was referring to the then longstanding president of U.S. Soccer and head of the U.S. bid, Dr. Sunil Gulati.
“We phoned President Obama together the night or two before and I told him, ‘It is going to be very difficult for you to win.'”
“What did President Obama say?” [Mersiades, the author,] asked.
“He understood what had gone on. He thanked me for telling him.”
The Mail also published several allegations – some seemingly coming from Blatter, others from Mersiades and her other sources.
Blatter, who resigned in 2015 only after the U.S. Department of Justice arrested several FIFA executives in an extraordinary raid, says he wanted to strip Qatar of the World Cup, but twice agreed to prevent that from happening if Mohamed Bin Hammam, the Qatari Executive Committee member, did not challenge him for the FIFA presidency.
Bin Hammam ran against Blatter in 2011, but, a week before the election, was charged with offering bribes for votes. He then dropped out of the race a few days before the vote – and one day before he was banned by FIFA.
But Blatter says the allegations weren’t the reason for Bin Hammam’s withdrawal. Blatter says the Qatari Emir told him, “in front of Bin Hammam, that Bin Hammam would not run.”
But Bin Hammam did decide to run. Upon hearing the news, Blatter says he wrote an email to the Qataris asking, “What is going on? Why is he running?”
The response, from the Emir’s older brother, Sheik Jassim, according to Blatter: “Don’t worry. We will fix it.”
“You remember when Bin Hammam pulled out of the presidential race?” Blatter asked rhetorically. “Everyone thinks he pulled out because of the ethics charges. It was nothing to do with the ethics charges. It was because he was told to. By Qatar. Because they promised me he would not stand. Sheik Jassim was here in Zurich. We were at a meeting, the three of us. Sheik Jassim told him to withdraw.”
The book also claims that, before the vote, with FIFA executives worried about potentially low revenues from a Qatar World Cup, Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera agreed to pay FIFA $100 million if Qatar won the right to host the tournament. BeIN Sports, now the sports subset of Al Jazeera, did not deny the alleged payment when contacted by the Mail, and instead said that such a payment is “standard market practice” and “often imposed upon broadcasters by sports federations and sports rights holders.”
Here’s more from the Mail on the payment:
The book says: “[FIFA secretary general Jerome] Valcke’s concerns about revenue growth in relation to Qatar were assuaged when negotiations commenced in October 2010 for a bonus payment of $100 million to FIFA from Al Jazeera if Qatar won 2022. There was no way he could turn it down. According to former FIFA staff, Valcke’s share was generally 5 percent for negotiating the deal.”
Mersiades asked Blatter about this bonus and he says: “Sponsors and broadcasters pay bonuses all the time. That is not unusual.”
When pushed to clarify that a $100 million bonus was “normal,” Blatter shrugged.
Valcke, in an email to Yahoo Sports, denied that he received a 5 percent share.
The book – and the Mail article – also includes bribery allegations against German legend and former FIFA Executive Committee member Franz Beckenbauer. It focuses on the Australian bid, but also dives into the entire process surrounding the scandal-ridden votes for 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting rights.
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