'Prejudice' behind Qatar allegations says World Cup bid cheif executive

The chief executive of Qatar's 2022 World Cup bid believes "prejudice" is behind the allegations of corruption against the bid.

Mohamed Bin Hammam, the country's representative on the FIFA executive committee and a key figure in bringing the showpiece tournament to his nation, has been provisionally suspended by the world governing body and will face an ethics committee hearing next week after being accused of bribing officials during the voting process.

FIFA members Issa Hayatou, Jacques Anouma and Amos Adamu were alleged to have received bribes - only for the "whistleblower" behind those claims, Phaedra Al Majid, to retract them on Sunday and claim she had fabricated them as revenge for losing her job.

Bid chief Hassan Al Thawadi told the Guardian: "I do not believe these claims are being made out of racism. But I genuinely think that ignorance fed into prejudice and made it a more fertile ground for these rumours to take seed and grow.

"I do believe there is prejudice against the fact that we are a rich, Arab nation - yes, I think there is genuine prejudice there.

"Why do I have to prove my innocence when there is not a shred of evidence? Why should we have an investigation if no other country has one - even Russia, which won the 2018 World Cup by the same people on the same day after the same process?"

FIFA yesterday confirmed they have received an email from Al Majid, a former international media officer for Qatar 2022, retracting her allegations.

FIFA said in a statement: "FIFA can confirm receipt of an email from a person claiming to have made allegations related to the Qatar 2022 bid process and now retracting these allegations.

"In a consistent and correct way, we have repeatedly said that FIFA would not be making any comments on allegations. This policy will continue.

"We have repeatedly said that FIFA can only act upon evidence. This policy will continue.

"When only allegations are made and no evidence is given, FIFA always stands firmly by its members."

Al Majid has sworn an affidavit saying she invented the allegations about the Qatar 2022 bid, which were reported after being published under parliamentary privilege by the House of Commons select committee for culture, media and sport.

That situation angered Al Thawadi, who continued: "I do feel absolute surprise and disappointment. I understand and respect parliamentary privilege, but my country's reputation and my bid's reputation is being sullied, tarnished, because of these allegations."

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