NICOLAS Sarkozy, the former French president, held a secret meeting in November 2010 which influenced the decision by football's governing body to award the 2022 football World Cup to Qatar, it was alleged yesterday.
In a 20-page investigation headlined 'Qatargate', the respected magazine 'France Football' said that "acts of collusion and corruption" shaped the much-criticised FIFA decision to award the 2022 competition to the tiny, oil-rich Gulf state. Among the alleged "acts of collusion", the magazine listed a secret meeting called by President Sarkozy at the Elysee Palace on 23 November, 2010.
Ten days later – to worldwide astonishment – Qatar was chosen by a FIFA executive committee meeting in Zurich to host the World Cup in June-July 2022, despite summer temperatures in the Gulf of up to 50C.
Mr Sarkozy's lunch guests included the crown prince of Qatar, Tamin bin Haman al-Thani; Michel Platini, president of the European Football Association (UEFA); and a representative of the investment fund which owned the then struggling French football club, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).
'France Football' said that Mr Platini – a star of the France team of the 1980s – came under pressure at the lunch to switch his vote from the United States to Qatar. In exchange, the magazine alleged, the Qataris discussed the possibility that they would buy Paris Saint-Germain and create a new TV sports channel in France to compete with Canal Plus, a channel that Mr Sarkozy loathed.
The magazine did not directly allege that a deal was struck at this meeting but said "all the elements" were "discussed".
In 2011, the Qatari state investment fund paid €50m for PSG. Last year, the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera TV company created a French sports channel, beIN Sport, after paying €150m for the rights to screen French football until 2016.
Mr Platini has admitted before that Mr Sarkozy asked him to switch his vote. Yesterday, he issued a statement angrily denying this was part of a deal involving PSG. "To say that my choice . . . was part of a deal between the French state and Qatar is pure speculation . . . and lies," he said.
Mr Sarkozy's office did not comment on the story yesterday. (© Independent News Service)