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Samoura hopes World Cup rights probe won’t ‘disrupt’ Qatar 2022

Fifa secretary general Fatma Samoura has said she hopes the criminal investigations into the sale of World Cup rights to Qatari-owned beIN Media Group will not “disrupt” Qatar’s preparations for the staging of the 2022 edition of the national team football tournament.

On Friday, Samoura’s (pictured) predecessor as secretary general, Jérôme Valcke, insisted that he did not engage in an “exchange” with beIN chief executive Nasser Al-Khelaifi after the office of the Swiss Attorney General (OAG) opened a criminal proceeding against the duo.

The OAG said last week that it suspected Valcke to have “accepted undue advantages from a businessman in the sports rights sector in connection with the award of media rights for certain countries at the Fifa World Cups in 2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030 and from Nasser Al-Khelaifi in connection with the award of media rights for certain countries at the Fifa World Cups in 2026 and 2030.”

Last Thursday, Valcke was interviewed and properties in France, Greece, Italy and Spain were searched. Police in Italy said that a villa in Sardinia had been seized following allegations that the property was made available to Valcke by Al-Khelaifi.

BeIN has denied any claims of wrongdoing regarding a rights deal reportedly agreed by the media company for the 2026 and 2030 World Cup rights in the Middle East and North Africa region. In January 2011, Al Jazeera Sport acquired the rights to all major Fifa events, excluding the Club World Cup, between 2015 and 2022 in 23 territories across the Middle East and North Africa region. It was Fifa’s incumbent rights-holder in the region, having bought out the previous rights-holder ART in November 2009, and subsequently transformed into beIN Media Group.

The announcement came weeks after Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup. Fifa has never announced if beIN also secured any 2026 and 2030 World Cup rights. Fifa, football's global governing body, said on Friday that its ethics commission had "opened a preliminary investigation into Nasser Al-Khelaifi."

Samoura, a Senegalese veteran of United Nations programmes, was appointed as Fifa’s new secretary general in May 2016. She told the AFP news agency yesterday (Tuesday): “I hope that the ongoing investigations will not disrupt the organisation of this (2022) World Cup.

“The World Cups, as you know, are the jewels of Fifa competition. Now that our structure has become much more credible, we cannot afford to jeopardise these competitions. The same goes for Qatar.

“The organisation of the competition was awarded to them in 2010, well before the new leadership came in, and we will ensure that the right conditions are put in place to be able to organise this competition in the best conditions.”

Regarding the wider US-led investigation into corruption at Fifa, Samoura added: “We have collaborated and continue to collaborate with the justice ministries of the United States and also Switzerland.

“There is a firm and real willingness within Fifa to change. If we stick to the results published in Fifa’s governance and financial reports at the end of 2016, we are on the right track.”