Leaders: SFA’s voice on Qatar must be loud and clear

WITH every week, pressure is mounting on Fifa to review the controversial decision to award the hosting of the 2022 Football World Cup to Qatar.

A number of Fifa's main sponsors have questioned the decision to award the World Cup to Qatar. Picture: Getty

Sony, one of the main sponsors of the event, has called on the governing body to carry out an “appropriate investigation” into allegations of corrupt payments during the bidding process. German sportswear company Adidas, which has a long-term sponsorship deal with Fifa, has said “the negative tenor of the public debate around Fifa is neither good for football nor for Fifa and its partners”.

A week ago it was alleged that Qatar’s former Fifa vice-president Mohamed bin Hammam paid £3 million to football officials around the world to help win support for Qatar in the run up to the World Cup vote in December 2010. The allegations, based on a leak of millions of documents, have reverberated round the world.

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Further charges and details have emerged over the weekend. And Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce has said he would support a re-vote for a new host if the allegations are proven.

It is against this background of growing discomfort over a decision widely considered to be inappropriate in any event given the marked absence of a football culture and infrastructure in the tiny state and its soaring summer temperatures, that the response of the Scottish Football Association to the affair seems curiously lame. Its chief executive, Stewart Regan, has so far voiced little material comment on the issue but indicated yesterday that he will await the outcome of a Fifa review before making “more informed comments” on the matter. That meeting of the Fifa Congress is due to be held tomorrow and on Wednesday.

It is understandable that the head of the SFA should not rush to judgment over this affair and that a full response should be fully considered and measured. But there is surely sufficient concern now in the public realm and damning evidence surrounding the conditions in which the decision was made as to warrant something rather more robust by way of response at this stage.

The SFA is one of the privileged members of Fifa which gets to set the rules of football through the International Football Association Board. With this position comes responsibility for the sport’s integrity. It would thus be expected to be playing an active part – or indeed even be at the forefront of moves to have a re-draw. For the sake of Fifa’s own reputation – such as it is – as well as for the standing of the game in the eyes of the world, there is a need for its senior members to be pro-active rather than re-active.

The decision to award the World Cup to Qatar was wrong on so many levels. If there was corruption involved in that process, or even a case to be answered, we would expect the SFA to be visible and to be heard. This is especially the case given the wide- spread sense that Fifa officials will try to ride out every storm.

Energy firms have much work to do

AN OFFICIAL survey showing that more than half of 10,000 adults surveyed across the UK do not trust any energy supplier will come as no surprise after years of above inflation increases and widespread public confusion over energy tariffs. But it should be of immediate concern to the government which is responsible for energy regulation. At a minimum this oversight should ensure that energy pricing is clear, transparent and the public can trust the pricing policies of energy suppliers.

The survey details are damning. The level of distrust rises to 57 per cent among those living in fuel poverty or with a disability. More than a third are concerned that their energy bills are not accurate, and 41 per cent worry that they pay for more energy than they consume. More than a third said they did not understand their energy bill. Despite dominating the market, the “big six” energy suppliers are all at the bottom of the results table.

Households are able, as never before, to compare, record and track regular spending. Yet two in five have no idea whether they are paying too much for energy. Antiquated systems for recording energy use and bill handling are no longer acceptable.

A major step forward to addressing this is the roll-out of the national smart meter. This would greatly help consumers and increase trust in those who sell us gas and electricity. Almost half of consumers say they are interested in having a smart meter installed.

Meanwhile, the survey findings are a sharp reminder of the degree of dissatisfaction and that the energy giants are unconvincing in their justification of price hikes. Their reputation has suffered huge damage and they have work to do to win back that trust.