How Qatar used rugby to smear Australia in 2022 World Cup bid

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The Qatar 2022 World Cup bid team ran a secret campaign in 2010 to sabotage competing host bids, the Sunday Times said.

Leaked documents show the Qatari bid team employed a US PR firm and ex-CIA agents to smear its rivals; United States and Australia.

The alleged aim was to create propaganda to give the impression that a World Cup would not be supported at home in both countries.

The plot was detailed in an email, entitled “Strategy”, and it is essentially a progress report on the work already in place by May 2010, seven months before the 22 members of Fifa’s executive committee were due to vote in Zurich.

At the time, Qatar’s main rivals to host the World Cup were America and Australia, although England, a favorite for 2018, was still in the running.

The Strategy email is explosive from the start: “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.”

In Australia, Qatar bid team tried first with a professor called Richard Pomfret, an economist at Adelaide University. He was offered money to write a paper criticizing Australia. He turned the offer down.

In October 2010 Pomfret was approached by Peter Reid, an Australian lawyer, who claimed to represent an international businessman concerned about the use of public funds for the bid. In a letter he asked Pomfret whether he had seen Coates’s report (a piece written to sabotage US bid) and wondered if for “a small fee” he might be willing to write a similar one for Australia. Pomfret turned him down.

However, one of the leaked documents is a seven-page intelligence report detailing rifts within the Australian bid. An accompanying email says the report cost $10,000 to commission but does not reveal which company had been assigned the spy work. The report reveals there was “discord” between the Australian bid and the country’s National Rugby League, which feared it may have to cancel its fixtures for up to eight weeks because a World Cup would use its stadiums, according to Sunday Times.

This report was passed to the Qatar bid in February 2010 and its findings were followed up, so by the time, the PR agency used by Doha, through its president got to writing the Strategy email three months later, things had progressed.

Under a heading “Organizing protests and other grassroots opposition to bids” the email says they had encouraged rugby-supporting students in Melbourne to attend matches with placards saying “Hands off our rugby! No to World Cup!”
It was all part of a general campaign targeted at the 22 Fifa voters to persuade them that the bids were unpopular domestically.

Previously this year, a World Cup insider who worked in a senior position in Australia's failed 2022 bid, speaking to Al Arabiya recently provided information about the deal that led Qatar to win the World Cup 2022.

“Qatar and the BeIn sport channel have paid money to get the World Cup tournament, and not to put television rights into competition and FIFA should be questioned about that,” Mersiades told Al Arabiya.

“The Emir of Qatar offered to Blatter that he would prevent (the Qatari) Bin Hammam from bidding for the FIFA presidency in return that Qatar won't fail in its bid to organize the World Cup, according to what I have been told by Blatter."

“The Emir also asked Blatter about the cost that should be paid for his country's World Cup, and Australia tried to persuade Qatar to withdraw from the World Cup,” she said. (MORE).

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