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Qatar paid $880m 'secret payments' to Fifa: report

State broadcaster Al-Jazeera offered $400m to Fifa 21 days before 2010 World Cup bid was decided
FIFA President Gianni Infantino (C) and AFC President Salman Al-Khalifa (4th-L) attend the 2019 AFC Asian Cup final football match between Japan and Qatar at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi (AFP)

Qatar allegedly offered $400m to Fifa just 21 days before the Gulf state was awarded the 2022 World Cup, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

Based on files seen by the newspaper, officials from the state-run Al-Jazeera broadcaster signed a contract with the football governing body while bidding was on-going for the sporting event in 2010.

Included in the contract was an additional $100m success fee, payable into a Fifa account were the bid to be successful.

A copy of a second secret television rights contract, worth $480m and signed three years later, was also seen by the newspaper.

This contract, made by the beIN media group and which is currently part of a Swiss police bribery inquiry, was signed shortly before Fifa cut short an internal investigation into corruption in the organisation.

A spokesperson for beIN told the Sunday Times it had “investigated extensively and no wrongdoing has been found concerning our involvement”. Fifa has yet to comment on the latest allegations.

Damian Collins MP, chairman of the UK's digital, culture, media and sport committee, said the $400m contract “appears to be in clear breach" of Fifa's rules on conflict of interest and called on the body to freeze the Al-Jazeera payments and launch an investigation.

World cup controversy

The 2022 World Cup bid has been mired in controversy, with allegations of bribery and geopolitical unrest.

Last week, the New York Times reported that Fifa was considering Oman and Kuwait as hosts of some of the matches at the 2022 World Cup if the tournament was to be expanded from 32 to 48 teams.

The World Cup will be expanded from 32 to 48 teams in 2026 but Fifa president Gianni Infantino has proposed bringing forward the enlarged format to 2022.

A decision is expected in June, although Fifa has already warned it would be difficult for Qatar to stage an expanded tournament alone.

Qatar has said it will not take a decision on expanding the tournament until it sees the details of a feasibility study from Fifa while a deep political rift in the Gulf complicates the prospect of sharing the competition.

The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and non-Gulf state Egypt cut political, trade, and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017. The countries accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism, which it denies.

The UAE’s sports chief, Mohammed Khalfan al-Romaithi, said last month that his country, Kuwait and Oman could all stage matches in an enlarged tournament.

However, he said it would only be possible for the UAE to host games if the dispute with Qatar was settled.

"I know that if the crisis remains we cannot," he said.