Last weekend, the Sunday Times reported that Mohammed bin Hammam, a former soccer executive from Qatar, paid more than $5 million to influence world soccer officials before tournament voting in 2010, when FIFA surprisingly awarded the 2022 World Cup to the Arab emirate.
Former U.S. federal prosecutor Michael Garcia is leading a FIFA investigation into the bidding processes for both the 2022 World Cup and the 2018 event, which was awarded to Russia. Garcia said he will forward the results of his investigations to FIFA on Monday, and the findings are expected to be released next month.
In light of this news, English bookmaker Coral has listed the United States as the even-money favorite to host the 2022 World Cup should FIFA strip Qatar of hosting duties, followed by South Korea at 9-to-4 odds, Japan at 4-to-1 and Australia at 8-to-1. Qatar was chosen to host the 2022 World Cup over bids from those other countries in December 2010, sparking outcry from the soccer world over the country’s unbearable summer climate and its lack of soccer tradition.
Coral is no longer taking bets on whether Qatar will be stripped of hosting duties, “as the latest allegations suggest it looks most likely now,” Coral’s John Hill said on the company’s Web site. Coral also has listed England as the leading choice (5-to-1) to replace Russia as the 2018 host, should FIFA make such a move.
Russia was chosen over England to host the 2018 World Cup in a vote that was taken at the same time as the vote to award the 2022 event to Qatar. While fewer questions have arisen about improprieties involved with Russia’s bid, Garcia’s team is still conducting an investigation (Garcia is barred from entering Russia because of his previous prosecution of Viktor Bout, a Russian who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States for arms trafficking; his Swiss deputy is conducting the investigation in that country).
“There is no proof or solid evidence that Russia’s bid was itself corrupt, but Fifa was so corrupt at the time, and with the serious questions over Qatar’s bid, it is hard to believe the 2018 decision was clean,” Gerry Sutcliffe, England’s sports minister at the time of the bid, told the Guardian. “If the whole process was corrupt, it should be run again.”