The Mail on Sunday is reporting that Qatar spent a whopping $27 billion on deals lobbying to get the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
According to the Mail, that figure includes “legitimate trade deals.” But what actually qualifies as “legitimate” may be up for debate. For instance, UEFA president Michel Platini voted for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, and according to the Mail, $22.4 billion — over 80 percent of the country’s expenditure — was funneled in Platini’s direction during the build-up to the vote. That figure, per the Mail, includes “orders for airliners from France-based Airbus; buying Paris Saint-Germain; setting up beIN SPORTS; and buying Ligue 1 broadcast rights [beIN has the rights in France].”
Now, there’s nothing about these transactions, on their face, that raise red flags. Proving impropriety would entail proving that votes were exchanged for these very specific deals. That’s a much harder task. Nevertheless, the deals the Mail aggregates, between the prominent figures and the dollar amounts, certainly paint a suspicious picture.
Paraguay’s Nicolas Leoz voted for Qatar. Leoz is the same person British politician David Triesman (aka Lord Triesman) accused of asking for knighthood in exchange for Paraguay’s vote. The Mail ties Leoz to $2 billion and an energy infrastructure deal negotiated between Sheik Hamad of Qatar and Paraguay’s president Fernando Lugo on Aug. 18, 2010. The vote for the 2022 World Cup host was on December 2, 2010.
The Mail matches Thai voter and Thailand Football Association president Worawi Makudi with $1.9 billion and a gas deal negotiated on Aug. 16, 2010 in Doha.
The list goes on, impressively weaving its way across time zones and though various pockets. But the number advanced by the Mail — $27 billion — is probably more impressive. To put that number into perspective, FIFA reported that the entire operational cost of the World Cup was $2 billion. FIFA spent $15 billion organizing the World Cup. The Brazilian Economic Research Foundation projected that the World Cup would generate $27.7 billion for the nation’s economy, roughly the same amount Qatar is reported to have paid just on lobbying to get the World Cup.
If the numbers Qatar reportedly shelled influencing voters are even in the neighborhood of being correct, they shed light on a much bigger story than whether Qatar appropriately won the right to host the World Cup. There’s a much bigger play here. When you add the $200-plus billion Qatar will end up spending on infrastructure, it becomes crystal clear that Qatar’s play has a lot less to do with making a dollar or a quick headline.
No, Qatar is making a long-term power play become the center of the universe, and World Cup is just a step — albeit a major one — in making this dream come true. Now that just might be worth a $27 billion lobbying budget.