15th November 2017

FIFAGate Trial: How bust-up in the FIFA restrooms helped swing 2022 World Cup vote

An extraordinary tale has emerged of how an angry squabble in the restrooms at FIFA helped sway the vote which ultimately awarded 2022 World Cup host rights to QatarThe story was told by Alejandro Burzaco, a former CEO of Argentina media rights giant TyC, in a New York courtroom where he was giving prosecution evidence against three former senior world football executives.

Jose Maria Marin, Manuel Burga and Juan Angel Napout all deny corruption charges levied against them in the FIFAGate corruption investigation into a US$200 million bribery network among football bosses in the Americas. One section of Burzaco’s evidence concerned the bribery operations conducted by the late Julio Grondona who, until his death in 2014, was senior Vice President of world federation FIFA, its financial committee Chairman, and head of the Argentinian federation (AFA).

Grondona was one of the three South American representatives on the FIFA Executive Committee which, in December 2010, awarded the World Cups of 2018 and 2022 to Russia and Qatar respectively. The other two were Nicolas Leoz, the Paraguayan president of CONMEBOL at the time, and the then Brazilian CBF supremo Ricardo Teixeira. Qatar’s shock win was achieved only after four rounds of voting to the apparently increasing concern of Grondona and Teixeira, who had a financial interest in the outcome.

Media rights

Burzaco told the court that Grondona obtained at least $1 million in exchange for agreeing to vote for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup. The money had come from a bribe due to Teixeira for signing off on a deal granting Copa America media rights to the Full Play agency.

Grondona held on to Teixeira’s payment because, he told Burzaco, he was owed the money by Teixeira in exchange for his vote for Qatar. Burzaco had accompanied Grondona, Teixeria and Nicolás Leoz, then the CONMEBOL president, to Zurich for the vote in 2010 and had heard of their intention to back Qatar. He said: “It was not a private thing”.

Grondona had not told him the total amount of money he accepted to make the Qatar vote or who the source of the bribe was. But he claimed to have witnessed an altercation between Grondona and Qatari officials at a FIFA event months later because he was furious at news reports implicating him in corrupt dealings and suggesting he had been underpaid for his vote.

Burzaco said: “Basically, Grondona told them [the Qatari officials]: you will pay me $80 million or write a letter saying you never paid me”. Leoz, Grondona told Burzaco, had voted initially for Japan and then South Korea to host the 2022 finals. Only after Grondona and Teixeira angrily confronted him in the FIFA restrooms inbetween rounds of voting did he agree to vote for Qatar.

** Directors of the Qatar bid have always denied all wrongdoing and an inquiry undertaken by the then FIFA ethics investigator, Michael Garcia, found no evidence against officials from the Gulf state.

• This article was originally published by Keir Radnedge via his internet site on 14 November 2017. To access the original, please click here.

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