The Swiss justice has launched last Thursday the 12th of October 2017 an inquiry for infringement of procedural rules in the attribution of the TV rights for Middle East and Northern Africa zones in the football world cups 2026 and 2030. The Qatari media group BeIN is suspected of bribery. This new allegation against the little emirate is adding a bit more concern about its ability to welcome the 2022 edition of the world cup. The 6th of October, the BBC sports editor, Dan Roan, was revealing that a study run by management consultants was clearly speaking about a risk of report. When sport meets geopolitics.
Geopolitical background. A controversial victory
FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) voted in 2010 for awarding Qatar the 2022 World Cup. This controversial decision has been presented as a diplomatic victory for the small gas-rich emirate, while the development of its national media group (BeIN Media group, previously known as Al Jazeera Sport) and French football club Paris-Saint-Germain purchased in 2011 were seen as economical victories. Qatar is aiming to build nine new stadiums with state-of-the-art cooling technology to host World Cup games in 2022.
Beside some allegations about potential corruption of voters for the 2010 election, Qatar is facing a major geopolitical crisis. In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) cut ties with their Gulf neighbour saying it was destabilising the Middle East by getting too friendly with Iran and supporting terrorism. Qatar strongly denies the allegation and has rejected a list of conditions for the lifting of sanctions. Saudi Arabia has closed its land border with Qatar, while all four countries have cut air and sea links with the kingdom.
Present situation. A controversial report
Management consultants Cornerstone Global have conducted a report entitled “Qatar in focus: Is the Fifa World Cup 2022 in danger?” It assesses the impact of the current diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its neighbours. There is “an increasing political risk that Qatar may not host the World Cup in 2022” said the study.
BBC explains: “The document warns construction companies working on the country’s $200bn (£153bn) infrastructure programme that it is a “high-risk project””. It claims tournament insiders and regional experts have both stated that it is far from certain Doha will actually host the tournament.
Dan Roan says: “Reasons for this are many and include open allegations of corruption – both in the bidding process and in the infrastructure development”. The report states “this means an increased risk for those working on, or seeking contracts for World Cup 2022 infrastructure… with a risk of non-payment and no realistic ability to enforce any legal contracts. (…) Given the current political situation… it is certainly possible that the tournament will not be held in Qatar. (…) Construction sources in Qatar have informed us that companies working on the World Cup, whilst not panicking yet, are already feeling the impact of the sanctions, with logistics proving costly and challenging to re-organise in light of the border closures with its neighbours. A group of five project managers working for a variety of small multi-national companies, all with government contracts related to World Cup construction, told us in July 2017 that their costs have increased by between 20 and 25% due to logistical problems.”
Qatar counter-attacks speedily. In a statement, Qatar 2022’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy denounced the author of the report for having an “affiliation to the countries blockading Qatar”. It said: firstly “there is absolutely no risk to the future of the first World Cup in the Middle East”, secondly there is “no impact on preparations as a result of the ongoing and illegal blockade against Qatar” and thirdly it is clear that “the intention to create doubt regarding the tournament, while attempting to cause resentment amongst Qatari citizens and anxiety amongst foreign businesses and residents, is as transparent as it is laughable.”
We are never sure to see snow for Christmas. Are we sure to see a World Cup for Christmas in 2022? Future will tells us.