World Cup sponsors Sony and Adidas have voiced concern over new allegations that bribes were paid to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup. The controversy comes less than a week before the 2014 tournament kicks off in Brazil.
Japanese electronics giant Sony said in light of the latest allegations on Sunday that it expected an "appropriate" investigation.
Last week, Britain's The Sunday Times newspaper revealed what it said was evidence, including bank transfers and emails, that Qatari former top level football executive Mohamed Bin Hammam had bribed senior football administrators to support his country's 2022 World Cup Bid.
In this Sunday's edition, the newspaper said in a story based off the same information that Bin Hammam had used his contacts to arrange government-level talks to arrange a bilateral natural gas deal that would have been "potentially worth millions of dollars to Thailand." It also claims it has documents showing that Bin Hammam was invited to meet with then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in 2010 to discuss "bilateral relations in sport" just weeks before Russia and Qatar were awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, respectively.
In a statement published by the Sunday Times, Sony said it wanted an investigation into how Qatar won the rights to host the world's biggest sporting event.
"As a FIFA partner, we expect these allegations to be investigated appropriately," the company said. "We continue to expect FIFA to adhere to its principles of integrity, ethics and fair play across all aspects of its operations."
Fellow World Cup sponsor Adidas said in a separate statement that "the negative tenor of the public debate around FIFA at the moment is neither good for football nor FIFA and its partners."
Beckenbauer drawn into scandal
The latest Sunday Times report also involves German football legend Franz Beckenbauer in the scandal, along with UEFA President Michel Platini.
Five months after Qatar was awarded the World Cup, the newspaper said Beckenbauer was invited to Doha along with executives from shipping and energy company ER Capital Holding. The company told The Sunday Times that the meeting was about a possible cooperation between Qatar and the maritime shipping industry, but no deal had been struck at the time.
Beckenbauer, who in 2010 sat on the powerful FIFA Executive Committee that voted to award Qatar the World Cup, said Sunday he "never worked for Qatar or Bin Hammam." His management, however, confirmed to the DPA news agency that the former footballer and coach worked for ER Capital Holding from April 2011 to March 2014 as a consultant and ambassador.
The newspaper also claimed Bin Hammam had arranged an October 2010 meeting for Platini with Qatar's bid committee in the Swiss city of Nyon. Platini slammed The Sunday Times, saying the newspaper was trying to "tarnish" his reputation.
Qatar hits back
The Qatari government has denied Bin Hammam was connected to the country's bid to host the World Cup. The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said Sunday it stands by a statement made last week denying any wrongdoing in its efforts to be awarded the tournament.
"Qatar has won the bid on its merits and we are confident that at the end of the appropriate process, the award of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will stand," it said.
FIFA has already banned Bin Hammam for life over accusations he paid bribes to win votes for the FIFA presidency. While that ban was later overturned, another was imposed for conflicts of interest.
This year's World Cup kicks off on Thursday in Brazil. A FIFA investigation into Russia and Qatar's winning bids by former US prosecutor Michael Garcia is set to be presented in July, a week after the World Cup final.
dr/kms (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa, SID)