Sunday 18 February 2018

US called in detectives after Clinton flew into rage over Qatar victory

Bill Clinton: ex-US president led America’s World Cup bid. Reuters
Bill Clinton: ex-US president led America’s World Cup bid. Reuters

Holly Watt, Claire Newell and Ben Bryant

Bill Clinton looked anything but happy as he strode into the Savoy Baur en Ville hotel in Zurich in December 2010. The receptionists could tell he was irritated, but had no idea just how angry he was.

After closing the door to his suite, he reached for an ornament on a table and threw it at a wall mirror in a fit of rage, shattering the glass.

The former US president, who had spent two years travelling the world glad-handing members of football's governing body FIFA, could not believe America's bid to host the 2022 World Cup had been beaten by, of all places, Qatar.

Mr Clinton, the honorary chairman of the US bid, had wheeled out such big-hitters as Brad Pitt, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Morgan Freeman and Spike Lee to add lustre to the US Soccer Federation bid.

Australia and Japan's bids had seemed the biggest threat, but few had seriously entertained the idea that Qatar, a footballing desert, could win.


"Clinton was fuming," said one well-placed source. "He felt humiliated and felt the decision did not make sense."

As Qatar's bid team celebrated and the FIFA president Sepp Blatter declared football was going to "new lands", questions were already being asked about the decision-making process. Why would FIFA award the World Cup to a small Gulf state with no footballing history, let alone stadia, where summer temperatures can reach 50C?

The answer could lie in a series of payments made by a senior Qatari official to various FIFA members. The Qatar 2022 bid committee is adamant that there is no link.

In the wake of Qatar's victory, the US and Australian governing bodies, or sources close to them, each hired teams of private detectives who have worked behind the scenes since, interviewing witnesses and obtaining documents in the search for what they were certain was the hidden truth about the motives of FIFA members in voting for Qatar.

Whether there is any connection between these investigations and the leak of documents to the 'Sunday Times' newspaper is unclear, but Australia and the US have most to gain if Qatar is stripped of the World Cup.

The newspaper has also been given millions of leaked documents that appear to show a further £2m (€2.4m) in bribes were paid to FIFA members in a plot allegedly organised by Mohammed Bin Hammam, Qatar's most senior football official at the time.

Mr Bin Hammam is alleged to have used 10 secret slush funds to make dozens of payments, many to accounts controlled by the heads of 30 African football associations who could lobby the continent's four executive members over how to vote. Mr Bin Hammam was banned from world football in 2011 after he was caught bribing voters in his bid to be elected FIFA president.

A spokesman for the Qatar 2022 bid said Mr Bin Hammam had never worked for the bid and they knew nothing about his activities.

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