The Qatar 2022 World Cup bid team broke FIFA rules by running a secret campaign to sabotage their rivals for the tournament, News Corp has claimed.
The Sunday Times newspaper says it has been passed documents by a whistleblower who worked with the Qatar bid.
It says the bid team used a PR agency and former CIA operatives to disseminate fake propaganda about its main competitors, Australia and the United States.
This allegedly involved recruiting prominent figures to criticise the bids in their own countries, thus giving the impression they lacked support.
FIFA rules state that bidders must “refrain from making any written or oral statements of any kind, whether adverse or otherwise, about the bids or candidatures of any other member association which has expressed an interest in hosting and staging the competitions”.
Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said it “rejected” all the claims made by the paper.
According to The Sunday Times, the alleged smear campaign included paying a professor 9,000 dollars ($A12,000) to write a damning report on the economic cost of a US World Cup, recruiting journalists and bloggers to promote negative stories in the US, Australian and international media, and organising grassroots protests at rugby matches in Australia.
It has been reported that the following was said in an email: “We have a group of pro-rugby students in Melbourne, Australia, who will start appearing at rugby matches with signs ‘Hands off Our Rugby No to World Cup!’ in June.”
The leaked documents also revealed that a group of American PE teachers had been recruited to ask congressmen to oppose a US World Cup on the grounds the money would be better spent on high school sports, the paper claimed.
Lord Triesman, former chairman of the Football Association and England bid chairman, urged FIFA to “look at the evidence thoroughly” and said Qatar should not be allowed to “hold on to the World Cup” if they were shown to have broken FIFA rules.
The Qatar bid team has been accused of corruption but was cleared after a two-year inquiry by the FIFA ethics committee.
“The Supreme Committee rejects each and every allegation put forward by the Sunday Times,” Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said in a statement.
“We have been thoroughly investigated and have been forthcoming with all information related to our bid, including the official investigation led by US attorney Michael Garcia.
“We have strictly adhered to all FIFA’s rules and regulations for the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process.”
The Press Association has contacted FIFA for comment.