FURTHER doubt has been cast over whether Qatar will be able to host the 2022 Fifa World Cup Finals following global concerns about the integrity of the Gulf state’s reporting of Covid-19 cases.
US-based Fox News reports that demands to relocate the tournament to another country have been reignited in the wake of a risk paper published by Cornerstone Global Associates, a London-based management and strategy consultancy, with offices in Dubai, Washington DC and Singapore.
“An internal memo… conducted by a leading construction company in Qatar working on Fifa World Cup projects raised concerns that many of its labourers who were infected, died, but were not reported as Covid-19 deaths,” Cornerstone highlighted in its report.
“The concerns raised are in line with concerns about the clear discrepancy between the number of infections and the mortality rate.”
The internal memo referred to the repatriation of the bodies of the deceased to their native Nepal and India. This practice goes against the recommendation by various health authorities around the world.
This also suggests that the Qatari authorities have been misreporting Covid-19 deaths, thereby ‘misleading’ the global healthcare community, the report continues.
The document notes that ‘by the middle of August 2020, Qatar had suffered the world’s highest coronavirus infection rate in the world per head of population’.
Yet, Cornerstone said, “Qatar claims only 201 deaths from coronavirus, suggesting a mortality rate of 0.17 per cent. Cornerstone’s health experts questioned the reliability of the Qatar death figures, as a mortality rate of 0.17pc seems grossly under-estimated.”
Offically, that figure has grown by 15 since the report was published.
Qatar’s regime has faced allegations that it bribed Fifa officials to secure the World Cup. It controversially won the right to host the event at a glitzy ceremony staged in 2010.
In April 2020, the US Department of Justice issued an indictment, alleging that the three South American members of Fifa’s 2010 executive committee – the late Nicolas Leoz, then president of South American soccer’s governing body CONMEBOL, then-Brazil Football Federation president Ricardo Teixeira, and an unnamed co-conspirator − accepted bribes to vote for Qatar to host the 2020 event.
Qatar’s exploitation of foreign workers building stadiums was also highlighted.
A 2019 Amnesty International report details the plight of thousands of workers being exploited despite calls to end the allegedly inhuman labour practices.
British parliamentarians have previously urged Fifa to move the 2022 World Cup from Qatar. They include Damian Collins, MP, formerly chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee, and David Triesman, a member of the House of Lords and a former chairman of the English Football Association.
The cost of relocating the World Cup from Qatar to a new host country would depend on the new host country and its existing facilities.
Britain could be a leading contender for relocation and the estimated cost of doing so, according to a Cornerstone analysis, would be around $100 million, with the expenses including an upgrade of facilities.
Cornerstone’s founder Ghanem Nuseibeh told Fox News that ‘the benefits of bringing 2022 to England far outweigh the cost’.
An earlier paper examined the risks surrounding the project, given its current isolation imposed by its neighbours over a dispute concerning the country’s domestic and foreign policies.
There is a ‘political risk’ that Qatar may not host the Fifa World Cup 2022, it reported. Tournament insiders and regional experts have both stated to Cornerstone that it is far from certain Doha will actually host the tournament
“Overall, the political risk posed to the World Cup 2022 is significant enough for Western diplomats to have privately stated they do not know whether or not the tournament will take place as planned,” the report said.
“Any cancellation of Qatar hosting the World Cup 2022 would likely be abrupt and would leave contractors involved in a precarious situation that may not be easily resolved.”
Qatar’s foreign ministry and embassies in Washington, Brussels, and Berlin did not respond to news media requests for comment.