FIFA says Russia and Qatar could lose 2018 and 2022 World Cups

Russia and Qatar could lose the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively if evidence emerges of bribery, leading Fifa official Domenico Scala has said.

FIFA, the international soccer governing body, could strip Russia and Qatar of their World Cup hosting rights if evidence comes to light there was corruption in the bidding process, a FIFA official said Sunday.

Domenico Scala, the chairman of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee, said that 2018 World Cup host Russia and 2022 World Cup host Qatar could be in trouble if allegations of bribery turn out to be true, Reuters reported.

“If evidence should emerge that the awards to Qatar and Russia only came about thanks to bought votes, then the awards could be invalidated,” Scala told the Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung Sunday. “This evidence has not yet been brought forth.”

Both countries have denied anything improper went down during the bidding process. Qatar officials have called the allegations of a corrupt bid “prejudice” and “racism.”

“It is very difficult for some to digest that an Arab Islamic country has this tournament, as if this right can’t be for an Arab state,” Qatar’s foreign minister Khaled al-Attiyah told Reuters last week. “I believe it is because of prejudice and racism that we have this bashing campaign against Qatar.”

Qatar’s bid in particular has been questioned ever since FIFA announced its award to the country in 2010. More than 150 migrant workers who are building the stadiums for the tournament have died, while others claim they’re subject to a form of modern-day slavery. Qatar’s summer temperatures, which can reach highs of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, have also prompted officials to move the tournament to winter, which interferes with European league play.

Meanwhile, Russian president Vladimir Putin has cast the bribery concerns as American overreach and a conspiracy against Russia.

A running FBI investigation into soccer’s governing body in May led to more than a dozen of FIFA’s top officials being indicted on charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering and corruption. Days later, FIFA’s 79-year-old president, Sepp Blatter, who had just won re-election, stepped down.

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