The row has coincided with the election for the presidency of FIFA, in which current President Sepp Blatter is now expected to be voted in unchallenged after his only rival, Qatar's Mohamed bin Hammam, was suspended, pending an investigation into separate allegations of bribery.
Also suspended was the FIFA vice president Jack Warner, who responded to the decision by leaking an email from FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, in which he wrote of Bin Hammam: "I never understood why he was running. If really he thought he had a chance, or ... he thought you can buy FIFA as they bought the World Cup."
Qatar denies bribery claims
Qatar, which won the decision to host the World Cup despite submitting the lowest ranked technical bid, has strongly denied the claims and is now said to be considering legal action against Valcke, who has admitted the email sent to Warner was genuine but has denied he was referring to any unethical behaviour. "When I refer to the 2022 World Cup in that e-mail, what I wanted to say is that the winning bid used their financial strength to lobby for support," Valcke said.
Immediately after Qatar was awarded the tournament, allegation arose that the country had entered into a vote-sharing agreement with Spain, which is not allowed under FIFA rules. This was followed more recently by claims in the Sunday Times by a supposed whistleblower that two African FIFA executive committee members, Issa Hayatou and Jacques Anouma, had been paid bribes to vote for Qatar. Hayatou, Anouma, and Qatar all denied the claims.
FIFA says no investigation needed
FIFA has since repeatedly denied there is any need for an investigation into the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar. President Blatter distanced himself from the comments of Valcke in a press conference this week, while saying: "There was no problem for FIFA's executive committee to act, and there is no issue for the World Cup 2022."
With Blatter on the verge of an unchallenged re-election as president, and no further investigation planned, Qatar appears to be in the clear for the moment. However, there may be more controversy to come for the Gulf country, as Warner has promised to unleash a "tsunami" of claims against FIFA. Some in Qatar may be anxious as to whether their country will be implicated in any further Warner allegations.
The World Cup is expected to be a huge boost for the economy of Qatar, but worryingly for the country's money men, FIFA's sponsors have already expressed concerns at the way the organisation and sport is being run. A statement from Coca Cola, one of football's major sponsors, read: "The current allegations being raised are distressing and bad for the sport. We have every expectation that FIFA will resolve this situation in an expedient and thorough manner."
$64bn worth of investment at stake
The implications of any further doubt on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar would be huge. It is estimated that the country has allocated $64bn to spend on World Cup related infrastructure and further projects have been planned off the back of the tournament. Hotels, stadiums and roads are being planned and contracts have already been awarded.
One of Qatar's competitors for the 2022 World Cup bid, Australia, has heavily criticised the bidding process. Sports minister Mark Arbib has called for a complete overhaul of the process and FIFA, similar to what happened following the 2002 Winter Olympics scandal, in which members of the International Olympic Committee were accused of taking bribes from the Salt Lake City Organising Committee.
Others in Australia have gone further, demanding that FIFA repay the $48.8m which the country spent on bidding for the 2022 World Cup. Independent Australian senator Nick Xenophon said: "It appears corrupt and highly questionable behaviour goes to the core of FIFA. Australia spent almost AU$46m on a bid we were never in the running for. "