• Sepp Blatter announced will step down as president of Fifa
  • Corruption investigation leads to Fifa arrests
  • Fresh doubts over Qatar World Cup

Sepp Blatter’s announcement on 2 June that he will step down as the president of Fifa has raised new doubts on the future of football’s 2022 World Cup that will be held in Qatar.

Blatter said in a televised speech that Fifa will hold an extraordinary general meeting, at which a new president will be elected. The meeting is expected to be held between December this year and March next year.

Fifa officials say that the move is the “Most responsible way to ensure a smooth transition”, and a period of reform will follow.

Blatter’s decision to step down comes just days after he was re-elected as president of Fifa. It also comes as Fifa faces fresh allegations of corruption from the US.

On 27 May Swiss authorities in Switzerland arrested Fifa officials on corruption charges on behalf of the US. Then on 2 June Fifa’s secretary general, Jerome Valcke, was named by US media as the person responsible for a $10m transfer of funds cited in a US indictment. After his address on 2 June, The New York Times reported that Blatter himself was now under investigation as part of the same inquiry.

Within an hour of Blatter’s speech there were suggestions that the fast moving changes at Fifa could have serious implications for the future of the Qatar World Cup in 2022. In a TV interview with the BBC, England’s FA chairman Greg Dyke said: “If I was in Qatar right now, I would not be feeling very comfortable.”

The tournament, for which Qatar secured the rights for in 2010, has been the source of almost persistent controversy over the past five years, with repeat allegations of corruption and the abuse of migrant workers.

Reputation own-goal

Since being awarded the 2022 Fifa football World Cup in December 2010, Doha has spent millions of dollars assembling teams of internationally-renowned public relations (PR) consultants to advise it on how best to use the tournament as a means of increasing Qatar’s status and influence in the world. Read more

The future of the tournament appeared to have been secured in November 2014 when Fifa said that its investigation into corruption in the selection of bids for the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups had not found enough evidence of major misconduct by Qatar to strip it of the tournament.

The report did criticise the conduct of most of the bidding countries, but added that there was no evidence that the Qatari bid team paid bribes to secure the 2022 World Cup. The Fifa executive committee, who will made the decision, therefore had no reason to strip Qatar of the tournament.

The investigation was hampered by obstacles in the way of independent ethics investigator Michael Garcia, who could not subpoena witnesses or records. He later said the report on the investigation was “erroneous”.

The report did not stop the controversy over the Qatar World Cup. Most recently in mid-May this year, a new campaign led by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) urged sponsors of the Fifa World Cup to speak out against the 2022 tournament in Qatar. The ITUC wrote to major sponsors including Adidas, Russia’s Gazprom, Hyundai, Kia, McDonald’s, Budweiser, Coca-Cola and Visa to put pressures on the organisers because of poor working conditions.

The international trade union released a statement claiming that Qatar’s treatment of workers is “simply slavery”.

This latest criticism from an international body comes despite Qatar promising to reform the treatment of migrant workers on its building sites. The government commissioned an investigation by the international law firm DLA Piper and promised to implement recommendations listed in a report published in May 2014.