Leaked documents revealed that Qatar hired public relations firms and former CIA agents to push out negative, fake propaganda to sabotage its 2022 World Cup bid rivals, according to an exclusive report by The Sunday Times.
The newspaper reported that the secret “black operations” that Qatar used were mainly against its biggest rival bidders, the US and Australia. These hired firms’ tasks were namely to gather dirt, create controversy and release negative publicity, according to emails released to the newspaper by a whistleblower who had worked with Qatar on the World Cup campaign.
Several officials have already expressed their concern at the glaring evidence of Qatari corruption, including Damian Collins, chairman of the British parliament's culture, media and sport select committee, who urged FIFA to investigate and mentioned the ultimate sanction of withdrawing Qatar’s right to host, the newspaper stated.
In one of the major leaked emails entitled “Strategy”, a detailed list of all the propaganda work that was done on Qatar’s behalf was presented to Ahmad Nimeh, a senior adviser to the Qatari bid team who now works for the Qatar supreme committee for delivery and legacy.
The email was sent by executives of the public relations company Brown Lloyd James (BLJ) in New York, now known as BLJ Worldwide. According to the newspaper, the company signed a contract and was paid $80,000 per month by Qatar to carry out this sabotage campaign.
The progress report laid out the work already in place up until May of 2010, which was seven months before FIFA’s executive committee were due to vote in Zurich.
“For the past 4 months we have undertaken an extensive campaign to undermine the 2018/2022 candidacies of competitor countries, particularly Australia and the US,” the email read, according to the newspaper’s report.
According to the emails, they recruited journalists, bloggers and other figures to hype up negative stories, spy on rivals, produce intelligence reports on key people and create grassroots protests.
The newspaper stated that Professor Dennis Coates, an economist from Maryland University, admitted that he had been paid $9,000 to write a report on why the bid would be unbeneficial for the US, Qatar’s main rival.
“US taxpayers are better off saying no to an expensive and secretive World Cup bid,” he said in his report.
One of the major requirements by FIFA is that the major football event needs to have a strong backing in the hosting country.
The explosive email mentions the hiring of an array of personalities to undermine the benefits of hosting the 2022 World Cup, including physical education teachers, the head of the Federation of Sports Economists who was tasked with writing a “major study on how the US World Cup lost money”, as well as journalists and high-profile figures who would ask congressmen to create a legislation against hosting the event.
“Organizing protests and other grassroots opposition to bids. We have a group of pro-rugby students in Melbourne, Australia, who will start appearing at rugby matches with signs ‘Hands off Our Rugby No to World Cup!’ in June,” one bullet point in the email also read, according to the newspaper.
The Sunday Times stated that Qatar bid team has failed to respond to them, and BLJ Worldwide said that they had no knowledge of this.