By Andrew Warshaw
July 17 – Reports that FIFA has received a collective request from Arab nations to strip Qatar as 2022 World Cup hosts have emerged as fake.
The revelation was published on what appeared to be a bogus version of a Swiss website that was picked up over the weekend by a number of other news organisations.
The reports suggested FIFA president Gianni Infantino had told the Swiss website The Local that Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Mauritania, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain had made the requests citing Article 85 of the FIFA statutes which concerns emergency action.
The fake website, posing as The Local, quoted Infantino as saying: “The countries warned FIFA of the risks threatening fan and player security in a country that is ‘the base and the castle of terrorism’.”
However, it later emerged that this was fake news, with the website saying it was not responsible for the article which was apparently published on a copycat site.
“The Local’s staff neither wrote, published nor removed the article in question and The Local can therefore not vouch for any of the claims made,” said co-founder James Savage whose website publishes in English and operates nine news sites across Europe.
“Our investigation so far indicates the article appeared on a fake site designed to look like The Local, and never appeared on The Local’s own site. There is no trace of it in our systems, nor any evidence that anyone tried to access our content management system”
“We have neither seen the letter referred to in the article, nor sought nor received comment from any representative of FIFA on the issue.”
A FIFA spokesman said: “The FIFA president has never received such a letter and subsequently has not made any comment on that.
“As already said, FIFA is in regular contact with the Qatar 2022 Local Organising Committee and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy handling matters relating to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”
Last month, a Saudi-led coalition cut off diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar and while the latest report has been established as fake (it has not been established who was behind it), the fact is that the cutting of links with Qatar by its neighbours is bound to have a knock-on effect on sporting relations.
It is also a clear indication that sport and politics very much do mix and somewhat worrying for Qatar, with five years still to go until they stage the tournament, in terms of the pressure being imposed on the Gulf state and lengths to which their opponents will seemingly go to undermine their hosting credentials.
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