(Reuters) - Organizers of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar have indicated they will not relinquish the right to host soccer’s showpiece event easily, whatever the fall-out from Sepp Blatter’s decision to step down as FIFA president.
Blatter, who counted the nations of the Arabian Gulf among his strongest allies, rocked the world of soccer on Tuesday by unexpectedly saying he would step down as FIFA president in the wake of a corruption investigation.
No sooner had the Swiss announced his decision than English Football Association chairman Greg Dyke raised the possibility that the controversial vote that awarded Qatar the tournament could be re-run.
“If I was the Qatari organizers I wouldn’t sleep very well tonight,” the former TV executive told British media.
“I think if the evidence comes out which shows the bidding processes were above board that’s fine. If it shows they were corrupt then obviously the bids should be re-done, it’s as simple as that.”
Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al-Thani, President of the Qatar Football Association, hit back immediately.
“Mr Dyke’s instinct to immediately focus on stripping Qatar of the World Cup speaks volumes on his views concerning what will be the first FIFA World Cup to take place in the Middle East,” he said in a statement.
“We would urge Mr Dyke to let the legal process take its course and concentrate on delivering his promise to build an England team capable of winning the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.”
Qatar beat Australia, Japan, the United States and South Korea to win the right to host the tournament, but the ballot has been dogged by allegations of corruption ever since.
The summary of an internal FIFA investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, released in 2014, cleared the Qatar bid of wrongdoing.
Former U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia, who conducted the probe, later resigned, however, and said the summary contained “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations” of facts and conclusions in his report.
The Swiss Attorney General announced its own probe into the bidding processes after local police arrested several FIFA officials in Zurich last week.
As well as the corruption allegations, Qatar has had to wage a public relations battle over why a country with little soccer history and where summer temperatures regularly top 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) should host the tournament.
“Qatar was never understandable - to have a World Cup in the middle of summer in Qatar when even FIFA’s health and safety people advised not to do it,” Dyke added on Tuesday.
Qatar organizers have consistently denied all allegations of corruption and Al-Thani said they would continue to cooperate with investigations into the bidding process.
“Having already cooperated fully with Mr. Garcia’s investigation – and been subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing – we welcome the Office of the Swiss Attorney General conducting its own work into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups,” his statement added.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by Alex Richardson