Bin Hammam: Qatar-Spain Deal in Place, But No Collusion

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Bin Hammam has acknowledged a deal with Spain-Portugal, but in the same breath denied wrongdoing (Getty)
(WFI) Qatari born AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam has confirmed that there is a mutual support deal in place between Qatar and the Spain-Portugal bid, but has denied any wrongdoing.

It follows months of rumours that that the two bids had “colluded” to support each other in the 2018 and 2022 bid races, suggestions that gained currency when former FIFA secretary-general Michel Zen-Ruffinen was caught on camera by undercover reporters from the Sunday Times repeating the allegations.

Senior Qatar bid officials were furious at the Sunday Times sting, which they felt unfairly sullied their bid. But in an interview with Spanish newspaper Marca, Bin Hammam has confirmed that a deal is in place.

“Asia supports the Iberian bid. There’s an excellent relationship between Asian football and Spanish football, we have done a lot of projects together, but that doesn’t mean there has been a pact between us,” he said.

“It is something that happens between a lot of bids and it’s not at all illegal. Qatar is going to support Spain and Portugal and they will support us, but we’re not breaking any rules.”

As well as Angel Maria Villar-Llona’s vote, Spain-Portugal are likely to bring the three CONMEBOL members to the table as well.

On Wednesday, Conmebol general secretary Eduardo Deluca confirmed that their three votes would go to the Iberian bid.

“The 10 countries [in Conmebol] are agreed to give the vote to Spain,” Deluca told Reuters after a meeting at CONMEBOL HQ in Asuncion, Paraguay.

With two of Asia’s other three Exco members – Junji Ogura and Chung Mong-joon – currently fighting for their own bids, it is unclear who else Bin Hammam bring over in support of the Iberian bid. Egypt’s Hany Abu Rida is understood to be close to the Qatari, while the Qatar 2022 bid has strong support in Africa, where there are two other votes up for grabs following the suspension of Nigerian Amos Adamu.

In October, responding to a question from INSIDER at the Leaders in Football conference in London, Bin Hammam said that his vote for who will stage the 2018 World Cup would be motivated primarily by his desire to bring the 2022 finals to Qatar, adding that the best bid might not win.

“I will answer you frankly what I feel according to my own point of view, but other members have their own point of view and own criteria and measurements,” he said.

“I will naturally be looking to the interests of Qatar because Qatar is bidding.

“This must not be surprising to anybody. We, the four [Ex-co] members in the AFC have said that we’d like to see 2022 in Asia and we have actually been very frank in our opinion.

“Naturally I believe that all those people who have got a bid, they will prepare to see that the World Cup in their own countries. I will decide first what is best [for Qatar].”

He added: "Whether the best candidates for 2018 and 2022 are going to win or not I'm not 100 per cent sure because this depends more on public relations and how as a marketing person you sell your product.”

By INSIDER’s James Corbett

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