The Sun
England should be considered as 2022 World Cup hosts if Qatar are stripped

A Sunday Times investigation claimed the Qatar bid to host the 2022 tournament allegedly employed dirty tricks to scupper their rivals, notably the US and Australia.

Targeting a key Fifa criteria which says bids should receive strong support in their own countries, Qatar paid a PR firm and ex-CIA agents to spread fake propaganda about rival bids not being backed in their own territories, according to a whistleblower.

The alleged use of the tactics, which would breach Fifa bidding rules, is the latest in a string of claims about the Qatar bid, which won the hosting rights in December 2010.

Mohamed bin Hammam, the Qatari former president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), was found to have paid members of other football associations to back his country's bid in 2014, a revelation that came two years after he was banned for life by Fifa.

Qatar won the rights to host 2022 by beating the US bid 14-8 in the final round of voting

The FA submitted bids for both the 2018 and 2022 tournaments before focusing solely on the former before voting began.

And according to Lord Triesman, who chaired the bids, they should be considered again if the allegations against Qatar turn into the tournament being stripped from the Middle Eastern nation.

He said: "Fifa's obligation is to look at the evidence thoroughly and rapidly and have the courage to take what may be a difficult decision.

"If Qatar is shown to have broken the Fifa rules, then they can't hold on to the World Cup.

"I think it would not be wrong for Fifa to reconsider England in those circumstances. We have the capabilities."

Qatar's selection as 2022 hosts has been controversial from the off, with the tournament itself having to be moved to November and December to avoid the roasting summer temperatures in the Gulf state.

There were also concerns over footballing interest, with the hosts' national team, who have lost at home to Curacao and Liechtenstein in the past 12 months, set to receive a top seed for the group stage despite currently being ranked 98th in the world.

The Times claims Fifa president Gianni Infantino may use the row to pressure Qatar into expanding its tournament to 48 teams from the current 32, while also sharing hosting rights with neighbouring states.

Mohamed bin Hammam, the former AFC president, was banned for life by Fifa in 2012

MP Damian Collins, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, called for a full-scale investigation into the new claims against Qatar.

Mr Collins said: "I've met the whistleblower myself and seen the evidence that he's brought forward.

"I think these are serious matters and there needs to be a proper, independent investigation of them. If the Qataris have broken the rules, they should face some sanctions."

England, with its existing infrastructure and 52-year drought since hosting its last World Cup, would be one of few nations able to prepare for hosting at such short notice.

However, any prospect of taking the World Cup away from Qatar still remains unlikely, with a Fifa official telling the Times that the claims have come 'too little and too late'.

The anonymous source added: "There is no real appetite to move it now - it is too far down the line."

Fifa are said to be concerned that any switch away from Qatar would trigger a costly and long-protracted legal battle.

The country has denied all the allegations and is determined to hold on to the World Cup.

 Lord Triesman with Sepp Blatter, the disgraced Fifa president who presided over the awarding of 2022 to Qatar

A statement from Qatar 2022's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy rejected the latest revelations, saying: "We have been thoroughly investigated and have been forthcoming with all information related to our bid, including the investigation led by US attorney Michael Garcia.

"We have strictly adhered to all Fifa's rules and regulations for the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process."

The 350-page Garcia report, led by the governing body's independent ethics investigator, was submitted in September 2014 and after being held secret by Fifa for three years, was released last year after German newspaper Bild threatened to put out a leaked copy.

Having been soundly beaten in the voting for 2018 and missing out on 2022 as well, the FA are said to be looking at teaming up with the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish associations for a joint 2030 bid.

The UK-wide bid has already been backed by Uefa president Alexander Ceferin, despite no formal proposal yet being submitted.

Ceferin said: "England alone would have a strong bid. But that bid would be even stronger if more countries were involved."

Joint bids are becoming more common as the format switches to 48 teams from 2026, increasing the number of games from 64 to 80.

That tournament was awarded to Canada, Mexico and the US, becoming the second joint hosts since after South Korea and Japan in 2002.

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