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BBC journalists arrested on official visit to Qatar

A model of Al Rayyan Stadium, being built for the World Cup Credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous

A BBC news crew has been arrested in Qatar while on an official visit to the country.

The crew were among other members of the press invited to tour new workers' accommodation, following ongoing international outcry at the poor conditions faced by the men building infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup.

However, the crew found themselves arrested by Qatari security services, and jailed and aggressively interrogated for two days.

In an article for the BBC, Middle East business correspondent Mark Lobel spoke of "hostile" questioning.

He wrote: "Thirteen hours of waiting around and questioning later, one of the interrogators snapped. 'This is not Disneyland,' he barked. 'You can't stick your camera anywhere.'"

In a statement, the Qatari government said: "By trespassing on private property and running afoul of Qatari laws, the BBC reporter made himself the story. We sincerely hope that this was not his intention.

"Moreover, we deeply regret that he was unable to report the real story, which is that the government and the private sector are making significant progress in efforts to improve the lives and the labour conditions of guest workers in Qatar."

Qatar Formula One race unlikely, says Ecclestone

Bernie says no to Qatar race. Credit: PA

Qatar's hopes of joining the Formula One calendar in the near future appear to have receded after commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone indicated he was unlikely to add a third Middle Eastern race to the schedule just yet.

"I think we've got enough here, don't you?" the Briton told reporters at the Bahrain Grand Prix when asked about the possibility of a race in Doha. Media reports have suggested that Qatar was close to signing a deal for a street race, possibly as early as next year.

Ecclestone confirmed last year that talks had taken place with the Qataris for a race that some reports have suggested would pay out 50 million pounds ($74.77 million) a year in hosting fees.

However, the Briton told reporters last December that Bahrain, who hosted the first race in the region in 2004, effectively had a veto on any new races that could overshadow theirs.

"I made a deal with the people in Bahrain and they said, 'If we are going to be something new in this area, which we are, will you give us a guarantee you won't put another race on in the area, in the Gulf?'," he said then.


Greens call for England to boycott Qatar 2022 World Cup

England's football team should boycott the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in protest over the country's human rights record, the Green Party has said.

Leader Natalie Bennett added her voice to a growing chorus of calls for the team to refuse to take part in the Gulf state-hosted event, amid anger over the gay rights and the exploitation of workers, as well as alleged corruption during the bidding process.

Qatar delegates celebrate winning the 2022 FIFA World Cup bid Credit: PA

Homosexuality is banned in the country.

In an interview with the Gay Times, Ms Bennett was asked whether England should travel to Qatar.

Personally no, that's my personal opinion. I think there are so many issues around Qatar - gay rights issues, workers' rights issues.

– Natalie Bennett, Green Party

She also called for action to address the "cultural problem" of homosexuality in sports as a whole, with athletes only coming out as gay once they have finished competing.

Fifa to pay clubs £141m in compensation for Qatar 2022

The 2022 World Cup final will take place on December 18th. Credit: PA

FIFA will pay $209 million (£141 million) to clubs in compensation for releasing players to take part in the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, world soccer's ruling body said on Friday.

"A total of $209 million will be distributed among the clubs releasing players to the participating teams in the 2018 FIFA World Cup (in Russia)," FIFA said in a statement.

"The same amount has been agreed for the 22nd edition to be staged in Qatar in 2022."

On Thursday, football's world governing body confirmed the 2022 World Cup final will take place on December 18th.

Northern Ireland to play Qatar in friendly

Michael O'Neill is looking forward to the game. Credit: PA

Northern Ireland will face Qatar in a friendly on May 31 at Crewe's Gresty Road ground.

Qatar are in the country to train at St George's Park and Northern Ireland were keen to arrange a friendly clash ahead of their match with Romania on June 13.

Manager Michael O'Neill said: "This match will help us retain our focus as a squad into June as we prepare for the crucial Euro match against Romania."


Fifa confirm 2022 World Cup will be four days shorter

FIFA's General secretary, Jérôme Valcke, has confirmed the 2022 Qatar World Cup will run for 28 days, four shorter than usual.

Valcke has been addressing the media in Doha this morning. Credit: Reuters

Addressing a media briefing in Doha this morning, the French national elaborated on recommendations set out by a Fifa task force on Monday, but would not confirm the exact dates of the event.

Football's World governing body will meet in Zurich on March 20th where they are expected to iron out the fine details.

Barcelona consider changing sponsors over 'social and political issues' in Qatar

Josep Maria Bartomeu pictured on the left when Barcelona signed Neymar. Credit: PA

Josep Maria Bartomeu believes "social and political issues" may force Barcelona to seek new sponsors next year.

The Spanish giants agreed a five-year deal with Qatar Sports Investment in 2011 worth a whopping £125m.

Club president Bartomeu expressed his gratitude for the substantial investment during an interview with Catalan radio station RAC1, but admits the political landscape has changed since the Gulf state was controversially awarded the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar is an issue where we are looking at other options. Their contract finishes in 2016 and then it could be them or another sponsor.

We're not insensitive to the current situation in Qatar because there are social and political issues there that didn't exist in 2010 and we're sensitive to them.

As a sponsor we're happy and they make a contribution to the club, but we are also looking at other options. It wasn't a bad idea. Qatar have helped us improve the club economically.

– Josep Maria Bartomeu

FA: We did seek 'background information' on World Cup bids

The Football Association has said that "media and corporate affairs consultants" were used to gather background information on other countreis' World Cup bids.

But the FA says it disclosed all its activities to ethics investigator Michael Garcia as part of his investigation into the bidding process.

The Sunday Times has published claims that officials received information from former MI6 staff about the Russian and Qatari World Cup bids.

However this and the paper's claims there is a "database" of intelligence on rival bids has not been corroborated.

In a statement the FA said the England 2018 team "complied with all disclosure requests" from Mr Garcia.

The FA can confirm the England 2018 bid engaged with a number of parties around the world to provide general and background information on the progress of the bidding process within different countries and perspectives.

These were media and corporate affairs consultants engaged on a confidential basis to gather intelligence.

The fact the bid team had taken advice on intelligence gathering was referenced to Mr Garcia as part of the investigative process.

The FA reiterates that it has fully complied with all disclosure requests made by Mr Garcia.

– FA statement
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