A row broke out on Friday over whether Qatar’s staging of the 2022 World Cup was under threat after a report warning of “an increasing political risk” to the tournament was leaked.
The study, carried out by management consultants Cornerstone Global, was passed to the BBC amid the ongoing diplomatic crisis which has engulfed the tiny, gas-rich emirate and its neighbours.
The document assesses the impact of June’s decision by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to cut ties with Qatar, which they accused of destabilising the Middle East and supporting terrorism.
The land border between Saudi Arabia and Qatar has been closed and all four countries have cut air and sea links with the kingdom, which has rejected their allegations, as well as a list of conditions for the lifting of sanctions.
Cornerstone’s study, which it said was self-generated as part of contracts it has with British and European clients, warns construction companies working on Qatar’s £153 billion infrastructure programme that it is a “high-risk project”.
Without naming any sources, the report entitled, ‘Qatar in focus: Is the Fifa World Cup 2022 in danger?’, claims “tournament insiders and regional experts have both stated to us that it is far from certain Doha will actually host the tournament”.
Qatar 2022’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy said in response: “There is absolutely no risk to the future of the first World Cup in the Middle East.”
It insisted there had been “no impact on preparations as a result of the ongoing and illegal blockade against Qatar”, adding: “In the context of the current political situation, we question the motives of an organisation – which makes no secret of its affiliation to the countries blockading Qatar – of publishing a report based entirely on media reports and anonymous sources.”
Cornerstone founder Ghanem Nuseibeh, who in a Twitter post this week accused Qatar of being “a major facilitator of terrorism financing”, told Telegraph Sport the report had not been funded by any of the governments involved in the blockade.
“The report has been done very objectively by people who have been to Qatar and have spoken to people on the ground there,” he added. “There is no political motivation for that.”
The report says: “Western diplomats have privately stated they do not know whether or not the tournament will take place as planned.
“The reasons for this are many and include open allegations of corruption – both in the bidding process and in the infrastructure development.
“Qatar is under greater pressure regarding its hosting of the tournament… the current political crisis has seen – or at least raised the possibility of – a Qatari opposition movement emerging.
“This means an increased risk for those working on, or seeking contracts for World Cup 2022 infrastructure… with a risk of non-payment and no realistic ability to enforce any legal contracts.
“Given the current political situation… it is certainly possible that the tournament will not be held in Qatar.
“Any cancellation of Qatar hosting the World Cup 2022 will likely be abrupt and will leave contractors involved in a precarious situation that may not be easily resolved.”
The report continues: “Construction sources in Qatar have informed us that companies working on the World Cup, whilst not panicking yet, are already feeling the impact of the sanctions, with logistics proving costly and challenging to re-organise in light of the border closures with its neighbours.
“A group of five project managers working for a variety of small multi-national companies, all with government contracts related to World Cup construction, told us in July 2017 that their costs have increased by between 20 and 25% due to logistical problems.”
The report adds: “Sources within the project have indicated that several members of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee have threatened to resign over excessive interference by senior officials on spending and allegations of corruption.”
Despite the denials, Qatari sports broadcaster beIN Sports has been adversely impacted by the blockade.
It holds the rights to December’s Club World Cup but there are fears its staff will be unable to cover the tournament in the UAE. Fifa confirmed it was monitoring the situation.
Full article – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2017/10/06/qatar-2022-world-cup-threat-report-warns-increased-political/