This year’s World Cup hosts Qatar hired a company run by a former CIA operative to reduce criticism of their winning bid from a leading German football official, according to reports on Monday.
Qatar’s success in landing the World Cup was a shock when the decision was made in 2010, not least to Australia which had also bid for the rights with the federal government putting $A45m into the campaign.
The reports, including from Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), said that Qatar spent some $US10m ($A14m) to make Theo Zwanziger change his mind over the 2022 tournament.
Zwanziger has seen some of the documents and told dpa Monday that “they are at least logical so I must believe that it was the case.
“I can not believe that everything is a pack of lies,” he said.
Zwanziger was German Football Federation (DFB) president 2006-2012 and a member of the powerful executive committee of the world governing body FIFA 2011-2015.
Zwanziger once named rich Qatar “the cancer of football” and an attempt by Qatar to make him revoke the statement was dismissed by a German court.
The SZ said that Zwanziger was seen as “a threat for Qatar’s World Cup ambitions” as he was highly critical ever since the country controversially landed the tournament, to be played November 21-December 18, in 2010.
“I could never understand this decision. It’s one of the biggest mistakes ever made in sport,” Zwanziger said in a 2013 interview.
He led a FIFA reform commission which also looked at the awarding of Qatar, and the human rights situation in the country.
The reports said Qatar paid the $US10m to a company named Global Risk Advisors (GRA) run by former CIA operative Kevin Chandler, with the project named Riverbed which initially was even planned to cost $US26m ($A36m).
The SZ said “complex traditional spycraft” was used to influence people around Zwanziger in the DFB, FIFA, the football family and personal surroundings.
The project reportedly ended in 2014 and was deemed a success because Zwanziger was considered “no longer a threat to Qatar’s staging of the 2022 World Cup.”
Chandler confirmed the existence of a Riverbed project but said it was media monitoring.