By ITV News Sports Producer Dan Salisbury-Jones
The academic allegedly hired by Qatar to write a negative report about the US 2022 World Cup bid says he was “naive” but stands by his research.
Professor Dennis Coates received $9,000 to write a report that questioned the economic benefits of Qatar’s chief rival the US hosting the FIFA World Cup.
The money was paid by a New York based PR firm called BLJ which the Sunday Times claims was employed by Qatar to smear the campaigns of rival bids – an allegation the Qataris deny.
Coates, the President of the Association of Sports Economists, admits he was paid to write the 23-page report but insists he didn’t think anything was untoward, he told ITV News: “I had no idea Qatar was involved. The only way I know this is from the reporter who called me last week to say that Qatar had paid the company that hired me. I don’t even know if that’s true.
“I wasn’t part of the Qatari bid, I never spoke to the Qatari bid team. If they had contacted me I would’ve said their bid was even stupider than the US bid.
“What I wrote in that report wasn’t anything I hadn’t written before. That’s why they came to me because they knew I was sceptical. I was paid to write an article that basically summarised the things I’d written a few years before.
“I was critical of the idea that hosting a World Cup would bring huge economic benefits. This is something I continue to believe. I can’t imagine that’s going to be any different for Qatar, they can’t even play it at the right time because it’s too damn hot.”
Despite his criticism, Coates does not go as far as saying Qatar should be stripped of hosting the tournament, he added: “I don’t really have an opinion on that but I think it was foolish that they got it in the first place.”
The Maryland University professor does accept he should have stated in his report that he had been paid to write it.
He said: “That was the first time I’d been hired to do such a thing so it never occurred to me to put that in. It was naivety on my part, maybe crucify me for that but there was no underhand intent on my part to hide that. It certainly wasn’t hey here’s 9K, go and make up something.”
The Qatar bid team has previously been accused of corruption, but was cleared following a two-year inquiry by the FIFA ethics committee.
Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said: “The Supreme Committee rejects each and every allegation put forward by The Sunday Times."
"We have been thoroughly investigated and have been forthcoming with all information related to our bid, including the official investigation led by US attorney Michael Garcia. We have strictly adhered to all FIFA’s rules and regulations for the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process.”