KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organisers have refuted vigorously a critical assessment of the Gulf state’s hosting prospects.
A study from a little-known London consultancy, Cornerstone Global, and apparently leaked to the BBC claimed “an increasing political risk that Qatar may not host the World Cup in 2022.”
The report sparked comparisons with the planting and hacking of documents by the Saudi Arabia-led countries which have organised a so-far-unsuccessful political and trade campaign against Qatar.
Construction companies working on the country’s $200bn infrastructure programme are warned by the report that the World Cup hosting is a “high-risk project”.
It 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 hit back, saying: “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”, and questioned the motives of the report.
The Supreme Committee added: “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.
“The intention to create doubt regarding the tournament, while attempting to cause resentment amongst Qatari citizens and anxiety amongst foreign businesses and residents, is as transparent as it is laughable.
“Despite the ambitious title of this report, there is absolutely no risk to the future of the first World Cup in the Middle East.”
In June, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with their Gulf neighbour saying it was destabilising the Middle East and supporting terrorism.Qatar strongly denies the allegation and has rejected a list of conditions for the lifting of sanctions.
Cornerstone’s report said: “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.
“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.
“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.”