Clear bias against Qatar says Gulf state’s 2022 World Cup Committee chief

There has been a “clear bias” against Qatar in the wake of Michael Garcia’s FIFA report into the bidding process for the next two World Cups, says 2022 Committee chief Hassan Al Thawadi

(ZURICH, SWITZERLAND)(REUTERS) – There has been a “clear bias” against Qatar in the wake of Michael Garcia’s FIFA report into the bidding process for the next two World Cups, the Gulf state’s 2022 Committee chief Hassan Al Thawadi said on Friday (February 13).

FIFA’s ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert issued a 42-page summary of Garcia’s report in November, which identified cases of “inappropriate conduct” in a number of the bids but said there was not enough evidence to justify reopening the process.

Garcia immediately appealed against Eckert’s statement, saying it contained misrepresentations, and resigned in protest, prompting speculation that evidence of wrongdoing may have been suppressed or diluted.

A lot of the media focus was on Qatar, whose World Cup organisers have been fending off allegations of corruption ever since the tiny Gulf state was awarded the 2022 tournament.

“I can’t say if there is a prejudice against Qatar but what I can say is there is a clear bias,” Al Thawadi, the Secretary General of the World Cup 2022 Committee told Al Jazeera.

“All the reporting on Michael Garcia, the description was, the focus was on us, on Qatar, and that was inaccurate.

“The simple fact was the investigation was on all bidding nations, 2018 along with 2022. We were very open and accepted an investigator coming from another nation that was a competitor to us for 2022.

“We never raised an issue because we were confident of our position, we embraced the process because it was an end to unfounded accusations and allegations.

“And yet nevertheless, somehow, the focus still seems to be on us and I think that, if nothing else, clearly shows there is a bias.”

Al Thawadi also spoke about former FIFA presidential candidate and executive committee member Mohamed Bin Hammam who is currently banned for life by FIFA from working in football.

Evidence was heard by FIFA that Bin Hammam, a Qatari, had used payments to gain support for his presidential bid, but there have also been allegations in a British newspaper that he made payments to help Qatar win the 2022 bid.

“Mohamed Bin Hammam was not working on our behalf,” said Al Thawadi. “After he got convinced like other executive committee members he was positive towards us. There were other executive committee members earlier on who were positive to our bid, who understood the bid and the vision behind our bid before Mohamed bin Hammam. We considered him just like any other Exco member, an individual we had to sell the vision to.

“MBH has been in the world of football before any member of the bidding team got involved. He had his own goals, his own ambition, his own strategy, he had his own vision. It’s safe to say I was not aware of his actions.”

Al Thawadi spoke about the welfare of workers who are building Qatar’s stadiums for the 2022 World Cup. In 2013 Amnesty International, the UK-based human rights group, says migrant workers in Qatar were often subjected to non-payment of wages, dangerous working conditions, including fierce heat, and squalid accommodation, with an inordinate number of them dying during work.

“If you talk to the workers they will be happy and if they’re not happy come and raise it with us and we will make sure they get it fixed,” said Al Thawadi. “We will never be able to fix everything. You will go and find other issues and other problems. We are not making the claim we have the solution, or that our standards solve the issues, we’re not making the claim that our workers charter resolve all the issues but we are committed. we are putting effort in day in day out. there are mistakes, there are problems. we want them to be raised to us in a constructive way. A balanced look at this will see there is progress but there is still a lot more work to be done and we are committed to it. I don’t think anyone will accept anything to come out of the blood or sweat of innocents.”

The timing of the 2022 World Cup has been a contentious issue since the tournament was awarded to Qatar in 2010.

During the traditional hosting dates of June and July, the intense summer heat in the Gulf can soar as high as 50 Celsius.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has ruled out the summer option, even though Qatar was awarded the tournament on the understanding that new technology would be used to cool the stadiums to an ideal temperature for football.

Al Thawadi said Qatar’s plans are proceeding on the basis that it will be held in the summer, although he said they could stage the event at any time.

“Since the first days of the bid we’ve always said a summer World Cup is feasible in Qatar, but whatever the football community decides we will fulfil it,” he said.

“If the decision is to change it to the winter our commitment to the cooling technology and the legacy it leaves is still strong.

“Currently our plans are moving forward with the assumption the World Cup will be taking place in the summer.

“Once the decision is made when the World Cup will be held we will be able to change and tinker with our plans to ensure we fulfil our requirements.”

Plans to implement the cooling technology remain on track, he added.

“The cooling technology was developed years before 2010. It was on the ground, it was something tangible. The evolution of that technology is being developed as we’re moving along now and the delivery of it is coming along,” he said.

“Our stadiums are being built now, so you will see the cooling technology being built as the stadiums are built. During the bidding stage, we made promises we were confident we could deliver on. Our belief has not wavered.”