When Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup, the jokes started almost immediately. There were allegations of bribery or other misbehavior, and many wondered exactly how the world’s most massive sporting event would be held in a tiny country with blistering hot weather in the summer. That in turn gave rise to the possibility of hosting the tournament in the winter.
Now, with new evidence emerging about possible corruption in the FIFA bidding process, there’s reasonable doubt as to whether Qatar will end up hosting the tournament at all.
All this has caused one major bookmaker to not just change the odds on who will host the tournament, but change the nature of the bets altogether. The Gala Coral Group was taking bets on whether not the tournament would ultimately be played in Qatar, with odds dropping from a height of as 5-1 that FIFA would take that right away from them. Now, all bets on that subject are off – literally.
“We’ve stopped taking bets on whether Qatar will keep the World Cup as the latest allegations suggest it looks most likely now,” said Coral’s John Hill.
United States Most Likely Replacement
In its place, the bookmaker is allowing bets on what nation will host the 2022 World Cup should Qatar have the tournament stripped away.
The even money favorite in that case would be the United States, which appeared to have the tournament locked down until a sudden shift in the winds in the days and hours before FIFA officials voted to award the event to Qatar instead. South Korea, Japan and Australia are also listed as reasonable possibilities.
Other bookies are still taking bets, but have adjusted the odds to reflect the uncertain status of the tournament. At William Hill, Qatar is now no better than even money to keep the World Cup, while betting on the country to lose their position as host will pay $11 on an $8 bet – meaning the UK’s largest bookmaker thinks Qatar is now a slight underdog. They also have the United States listed as the most likely alternative host.
Sunday Times Report Increases Pressure
These moves came quickly after the Sunday Times reported last week that Qatari soccer executive Mohammed bin Hammam allegedly spent more than $5 million to influence officials before the 2010 vote that awarded the World Cup to his country. That report has only been partially revealed so far, and the extent of the evidence presented could have a major impact on whether FIFA is pressured into moving the tournament to a new host.
So far, the investigation has already sown doubt in Qatar, where stock and bond prices tumbled this week.
“There might be re-voting and that’s all very negative news,” Hisham Khairy, head of institutional trade at Dubai’s Mena Corp. Financial Services, told Bloomberg. “Everyone is worried about it and everybody is reducing their positions.”
That said, there’s still plenty of reason to believe the tournament will remain in Qatar. After all, they’ve already won the vote and begun the process of building infrastructure and stadiums. Should the country be stripped of its hosting title, it will not be able to legally protest the decision: apparently each country had to sign a waiver to that effect before they could throw their hats in the ring when FIFA acceped initial bids back in 2010.