A new report by the Associated Press published earlier this week has levied allegations against the World Cup 2022 hosting country, Qatar. Specifically, the investigation claims that the country contracted a former US CIA agent who spied on the world’s soccer governing body, Fédération Internationale de Football Association to obtain actional intel and use it in securing the hosting rights for the event.
As a candidate host for the event, any insight into the selection-process of FIFA could have been useful to the country’s bid. The Associated Press has named Kevin Chalker as the CIA agent who spied for the country and helped it prepare a better bid. He reportedly worked on the job around 2010 with Qatar preparing for an early assault on the hosting rights.
Securing the bid was no easy job, as Qatar faced multiple criticism related to geopolitics. However, Chalker continued working with the country in the following years to ensure that Qatar manages to steer clear from issues with its hosting occasioned by third parties.
The report though is interesting as Qatar was vying for hosting rights against South Korea, Japan, and Australia, as well as the United States, surprising all by winning. Hosting the event in Qatar was no easy decision logistically as well.
Qatar Overcomes Logistics Challenges in FIFA’s Eyes
FIFA had to consent to a change in dates and move the event in November and December in order to avoid the sultry desert climate. While Qatar has clearly done something right to win the bid, Chalker himself has refuted the allegations insofar as he said that he would never conduct illegal surveillance to the benefit of any party.
FIFA and Qatar have been lambasted for the surprising bid, arguing that there was something untoward in the decision. The feeling of foul play culminated with the 2015 scandal which saw FIFA in the center of a massive scandal which saw millions of dollars flowing around in underhand payments to award tournaments hosting rights.
Several FIFA officials and people working on the corrupt probe ended up dead by suicide and/or suffering attempts on their life (some of which successful), and many others were arrested and sentenced in what is one of the biggest probes in sports history. Qatar did come under a lot of fire around that time, with observers deploring the country’s human rights track record, difficult climate, and the allegedly higher cost of hosting the event there.
Yet, the latest report compounds fears that process of allocation of hosting rights by FIFA has been heavily influenced by favoritism and otherwise disingenuous means over the past years.