With football fever mounting ahead of the World Cup, Fifa is under increasing pressure from big-name and big-money sponsors like Coca Cola and Adidas to get to the bottom of ‘Qatargate’.
It is claimed bribery was involved in the decision by football’s world governing body to award the 2022 showpiece event to Qatar.
British media reports allege that Qatari former football official Mohamed bin Hammam bribed colleagues around the world to help secure the bid. He has been banned by Fifa though he has denied wrongdoing, as has Qatar.
Sony, Adidas, Visa, Coca-Cola and Hyundai, all members of the top tier of FIFA sponsors, have all spoken out in favour of a thorough investigation of bribery claims. It is unusual for sponsors to say anything publicly on such a sensitive issue and the comments reflect concern over the knock-on effects on their image.
Awarded in 2010, the success of Qatar’s World Cup bid surprised many and attracted controversy from the outset because of the extreme summer heat during the months when the Cup is played and Qatar’s lack of domestic football tradition.
An internal investigation by Fifa is due to report in July, around a week after this year’s World Cup final.
The timing could not be worse for Fifa. Amid the current buzz in Brazil, it is facing calls to strip Qatar of the 2022 World Cup should the probe prove that the tiny country bought the votes needed to host the tournament.