The Qatar 2022 World Cup bid team broke FIFA rules by running a secret campaign to sabotage their rivals for the tournament, The Sunday Times has claimed.
The newspaper says it has been passed documents by a whistleblower who worked with the Qatar bid.
It says the bid team used a PR agency and former CIA operatives to disseminate fake propaganda about its main competitors, the United States and Australia.
This allegedly involved recruiting prominent figures to criticise the bids in their own countries, thus giving the impression they lacked support at home.
FIFA rules say that bidders must “refrain from making any written or oral statements of any kind, whether adverse or otherwise, about the bids or candidatures of any other member association which has expressed an interest in hosting and staging the competitions”.
Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said it “rejected” all the claims made by the paper.
According to The Sunday Times, the alleged smear campaign included paying a professor 9,000 dollars (£6,900) to write a damning report on the economic cost of a US World Cup, recruiting journalists and bloggers to promote negative stories in the US, Australian and international media, and organising grassroots protests at rugby matches in Australia.
The leaked documents also revealed that a group of American PE teachers had been recruited to ask congressmen to oppose a US World Cup on the grounds the money would be better spent on high school sports, the paper claimed.