How Gas Won The World Cup

Allegations revealed in cache of documents claim gas deals played major role in Qatar’s bid.

A gas deal “that was potentially worth tens of millions of dollars” has come under scrutiny as The Sunday Times investigates alleged corruption in Qatar’s winning bid for the 2022 World Cup. The gas-rich emirate that won the bid to host football’s largest competition has been alleged to have bribed officials via an intermediary, Mohammed bin Hammam, who was connected with the Qatari Football Association (FA) but whom the emirate says was not directly connected to the winning bid team.

The Sunday Times this week said that bin Hammam brokered two secret meetings between a Thai FA aide and Qatari royalty in August and September 2010 to discuss the sale of Qatari LNG to Thailand. The meeting, aimed at “promoting the bilateral co-operations in soccer developments and activities between the Qatari FA and Thai FA”, was also attended by Abdullah bin Hamad Al Attiyah, then the Deputy Prime Minister of Qatar and its Minister of Energy & Industry. The newspaper claims that Al Attiyah “has no connection to football.”

The Sunday Times wrote that “just four months before Exco was to vote on the bids for 2022, Bin Hammam had ushered a righthand man to one of the crucial Exco voters into talks at the highest levels of the Qatari government about a major gas deal.” This is one of three meetings the newspaper claims are contentious, with football and gas negotiations mixing: another, held before the World Cup vote, saw representatives of Russia and Qatar meet to allegedly discuss football and gas. During the time of the meetings, Gazprom was considering an expansion into Qatar, announced in April 2011.

A third set of meetings, involving former German footballer Franz Beckenbauer, who was acting on behalf of gas shipbuilding company ER Capital Holding (and has since become an ambassador for the Association of Russian Gas Producers), is also under suspicion. ER Capital says no contracts were signed as a result of the meeting. Beckenbauer refused to comment, saying he did not understand some of the questions, which were put to him in English. Qatar 2022 denies any wrongdoing. Russian representatives in an email sent at the time (when impropriety was first alleged) said they did not discuss Qatar’s World Cup bid.

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