Michel Platini Detained by Police Over ‘Qatargate,’ Bookies Slash Odds on Qatar Losing 2022 World Cup

Posted on: June 18, 2019, 01:44h. 

Last updated on: June 18, 2019, 01:44h.

Michel Platini, the former president of the European soccer governing body, UEFA, was detained and questioned by French authorities on Tuesday morning as part of an investigation into “Qatargate” — the controversy surrounding the awarding of the 2022 soccer World Cup to the oil-rich Middle Eastern nation of Qatar.

Michel Platini
Michel Platini is a three-time Ballon d’Or winner and was a hero in France until his fall from grace in 2015. But does the former midfield playmaker’s detention by French police suggest the 2022 World Cup might now not be staged in Qatar? (Image: AP)

According to French news site Mediapart, the 1980s soccer superstar is being grilled by the French anti-corruption judicial police in Nanterre, an agency that concerns itself with complex financial fraud cases and corruption.

The sudden escalation of Qatargate has caused some bookmakers to question whether the soccer tournament — which is also the world’s biggest betting event — will go ahead in Qatar at all.

Who Could Step In?

Coral has slashed the odds on England taking over as host nation from 10-1 to 6-1, as it becomes increasingly possible that Qatar will be stripped of the privilege due to an allegedly corrupt bidding process.

England would immediately be the favorite because it is one of the few nations with the stadiums, infrastructure, and transport already in place to step in at short notice. It also has the willingness to do so, having lost the bid to host the 2018 to Russia in a process that also raised eyebrows.

The USA could also host the tournament, but it has already won the right to stage the event in 2026, along with Canada and Mexico. Spain would also be a contender.

Certain sections of the British press reported today that FIFA had held a secret meeting to find a replacement host nation, although this may be wishful thinking on their part.

Whispers of Corruption

Qatar was awarded the host status in 2010 by FIFA’s 22 member voting committee — which included Platini — a decision that was controversial at the time, not only because the country lacked the infrastructure and sporting tradition of previous hosts, but also because temperatures can soar to 109 degrees in July, making it dangerously unsuitable for soccer games.

In response to criticism, FIFA took the decision to move the World Cup to the winter for the first time in its history — a widely unpopular one, as it interrupts the major domestic league seasons, particularly the EPL, which has no winter break.

Whispers of corruption became louder in 2015 when the US Department of Justice brought racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering charges against much of FIFA’s top brass.

Eleven of the 22 committee members who voted on the 2018 and 2022 World Cups have since been either fined, suspended, banned from soccer for life, or prosecuted for corruption.

Beyond Reproach

As head of UEFA, Platini was widely expected to succeed Sepp Blatter as President of FIFA. But both men were sidelined from the sport in the wake of the corruption scandal and after Platini was accused of accepting a $2 million “disloyal payment” from Blatter.

The French former midfielder — who was three-times winner of prestigious Ballon d’Or, the prize bestowed on the best soccer player in the world — protested his innocence in that matter, and continued to do so on Tuesday.

Platini’s agent Jean-Christophe Alquier said his client “has absolutely nothing to reproach himself for and affirms to be a complete stranger to all facts which are beyond his understanding.”