The fact that Fifa’s executive committee voted to stage the 2022 World Cup in a country where summer temperatures regularly reach 50 degrees and that since then at least 10 of the members of that committee have resigned in the wake of fraud or corruption allegations of some kind is enough, in the eyes of Gary Lineker, to conclude that the decision may not have been conducted in an entirely straightforward manner.
He has said as much in a heavily trailed interview with GQ this week.
“I am not against it going to different parts of the world but you’d have thought they might have known it would be very hot in summer. You have to be careful what you say, but the corruption is just … yuk,” he said.
Into such seemingly uncontroversial waters wades Richard Keys, a man evidently still unafraid of speaking his mind, who since his rather public exit from Sky Sports has been working for Al Jazeera in Qatar.
“Sad to read @GaryLineker on Qatar WC bid. He forgets to mention he was working for Al Jazeera at the time – taking money. #short memory?” he asked on Twitter.
That working for Al Jazeera, as he did for four years as a pundit, should somehow compromise Lineker’s position on Fifa corruption mystified many users, not least Lineker himself. “Erm... I happily worked for a respected TV organisation from Qatar and would do so again. Don’t see what you’re getting at.
“There are things I don’t think are right in this country, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t work for the BBC. Strange comment.”
He then tweeted a link to an article on “Fifa’s Dirty Dozen” that lists the members of Fifa’s executive committee who have resigned or retired since the vote, most under a cloud of corruption allegations.
Keys, who described Lineker as “a fine broadcaster but not a journalist”, said such an attitude was why “England are pariahs on the world stage” and that he would “wait for the report from the [Fifa] ethics committee” before jumping to such conclusions.
Asked about the extensive evidence of suspicious payments from Qatar’s disgraced former Fifa deputy secretary general Mohamed Bin Hammam, recently published in The Sunday Times, he replied: “That’ll be Murdoch’s paper? Agenda? Get the 2022 World Cup to the USA.”
The report from Fifa’s ethics committee that Keys is happy to wait for will be based on an extensive investigation into possible Qatar corruption by US lawyer Michael Garcia, which Fifa has already indicated – to some consternation – will never be made public. Whatever the agenda for that decision will also remain a mystery.