(WFI) FIFA president Sepp Blatter met the Emir of Qatar in a low-key visit to the Gulf state’s capital that was short on outcomes.
Despite the ongoing scrutiny around Qatar 2022, following fresh allegations of corruption published by the Sunday Times last month, FIFA did not publicise Wednesday’s meeting. World football’s governing body decided to send out a two-paragraph statement about Blatter’s visit in the middle of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony last night.
It was Blatter’s first trip to Doha since his visit last November. The lack of publicity around the trip reveals how FIFA is attempting to more tightly control communications around the Qatar World Cup, which has been engulfed in controversy, as he campaigns for a fifth term as FIFA president.
Qatar 2022 World Cup organisers could not provide INSIDER with any details about discussions that took place at the one-hour meeting between the Swiss and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani at the Al Bahr Palace. FIFA secretary general Jérôme Valcke also attended.
Qatar’s World Cup faces a series of challenges. A FIFA taskforce is still assessing whether to move the tournament from the summer months, when temperatures in Qatar can top 50C, to the winter. This decision is expected next spring. Qatar has also begun reforming its labour laws to improve the conditions of migrant workers, thousands of whom are involved in World Cup projects. But the controversial kafala system of tied employment remains in place.
Then there’s FIFA investigator Michael Garcia’s report on corruption in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contest. His report, which will not be made public, will be handed to FIFA’s ethics judge Hans Joachim Eckhart in September. It could yet recommend that Qatar is stripped of the World Cup if there is concrete evidence to support the wave of allegations of bribery and corruption levelled against the Qatar 2022 bid, all of which they deny.
FIFA said in the statement that Blatter and the Emir discussed World Cup preparations, without elaborating on which aspects, as well as the development of football in the region and the ongoing reforms of labour rights to protect the welfare of migrant workers.
They also “reviewed existing relations of cooperation between the State of Qatar and football’s world governing body and looked at ways of enhancing them further,” FIFA added.
“I was very pleased to meet today the highest political authority – the Emir of Qatar. It was great to see his and Qatar’s commitment to use the 2022 FIFA World Cup to achieve positive social change and to promote the host country and region,” Blatter said in the FIFA statement.
“Qatar takes its responsibility as hosts seriously. We also discussed the importance of further developing football in the region.”
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
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