What Happened in Qatar?: Examining the Corruption Scandal Surrounding the 2022 World Cup

What Happened in Qatar?: Examining the Corruption Scandal Surrounding the 2022 World Cup

Josh Mone


In 2010, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, the then-Prime Minister of Qatar, traveled to France to pitch the almost fantastical idea of hosting the world’s largest sporting event.[1] A few months later, despite lacking any meaningful soccer tradition or even basic soccer infrastructure such as stadiums, the international governing body of soccer awarded the 2022 World Cup to the small but impossibly wealthy Middle-Eastern nation.[2]

In the nearly thirteen years since then, Fédération Internationale De Football Association (FIFA) and Qatari officials have faced countless scandals and accusations relating to the 2022 World Cup.[3] Areas of controversy include corruption during the process of bidding to host the tournament, human rights abuses of the migrant workers who built the requisite infrastructure, environmental concerns relating to the infrastructure, and Qatar’s poor records on women’s and LGBT rights.[4] According to an analysis by The Guardian, at least 6,500 migrant workers died in Qatar while building the infrastructure required to host the event.[5]

Corruption Investigations

Qatar’s successful bid to host the World Cup drew suspicion almost immediately, as U.S officials wondered how a tiny monarchy whose soccer team had never qualified for a World Cup beat out sporting powerhouses like the United States, Japan, and Australia.[6] In fact, even two months before FIFA was scheduled to announce the host of the 2022 World Cup, two members of the 24-person committee charged with choosing a host were suspended for offering to sell their votes.[7] This was only the tip of the iceberg, as the United States, Switzerland, Germany, Costa Rica, and Colombia launched parallel investigations into the bidding process after emails were leaked that suggested that Qatari officials had paid millions of dollars in bribes to FIFA officials.[8] The United States’ investigation found irregularities in the bidding process that ultimately resulted in nine indictments against FIFA officials for racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering in connection with Qatar’s bid.[9]

In the midst of this controversy, Sepp Blatter abruptly resigned just days after winning a fifth term as FIFA’s president.[10] He was later charged with fraud in Switzerland in connection with the 2022 World Cup bidding process, but he was acquitted last July.[11]

Of the twenty two people who voted on whether to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup, eight of them have been formally accused, indicted, or convicted of criminal corruption, and eight more have been banned from FIFA due to allegations of corruption.[12] The alleged ringleader of this corruption was FIFA Vice President Jack Warner, whose trial in the US is ongoing.[13] He is accused of accepting $2 million in bribe money from Qatari officials so that he would vote for their bid and encourage other members of the committee to do the same.[14] As a result of all this corruption, 6,500 migrant workers died, and a country with one of the worst records on human rights enjoyed the international spotlight for a month while raking in billions of dollars from soccer fans around the world.[15]


[1] Tariq Panja & Rory Smith, The World Cup That Changed Everything, N.Y. Times (Nov. 19, 2022), https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/19/sports/soccer/world-cup-qatar-2022.html.

[2] Jamie Jackson, Qatar Wins 2022 World Cup Bid, Guardian (Dec. 2, 2010), https://www.theguardian.com/football/2010/dec/02/qatar-win-2022-world-cup-bid.

[3] Finlay Dunseath, Qatar FIFA World Cup Controversy: What You Need to Know, N. Z. Radio (Dec. 12, 2022), https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/what-you-need-to-know/480588/qatar-fifa-world-cup-controversy-what-you-need-to-know.

[4] Id.

[5] Pete Pattisson et al., Revealed: 6,500 Migrant Workers Have Died in Qatar Since World Cup Awarded, Guardian (Feb. 23, 2021), https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/feb/23/revealed-migrant-worker-deaths-qatar-fifa-world-cup-2022.

[6] Sari Horwitz, Successful Qatar Bid for World Cup Aroused Suspicion among U.S. Officials, Wash. Post (May 27, 2015), https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/successful-qatar-bid-for-world-cup-aroused-suspicion-among-us-officials/2015/05/27/81d1cb96-0487-11e5-a428-c984eb077d4e_story.html.

[7] Ian Ward, The Many, Many Controversies Surrounding the 2022 World Cup, Explained, Vox (Nov. 19, 2022), https://www.vox.com/world/23450515/world-cup-fifa-qatar-2022-controversy-scandals-explained.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Omar Garrick, Former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner Loses Appeal against Extradition to US, Athletic (Nov. 17, 2022), https://theathletic.com/3907611/2022/11/17/jack-warner-extradition/.

[14] Id.

[15] Pattisson supra note 5.