NICOLA Sturgeon has said ahead of Scotland’s football match against Qatar tonight that there is a “very strong case” for stripping the gulf state of the 2022 World Cup if corruption allegations are proven.
The First Minister stopped short of endorsing a fans’ boycott of the match at Easter Road in Edinburgh but said she understood why some were staying away. She said she will not be attending the fixture.
Ms Sturgeon branded the allegations that have emerged against Fifa in the past week as “appalling” and called for football’s governing body to get its “house in order” as she addressed MSPs yesterday.
She said: “Scotland has a very strong commitment to securing democracy, the rule of law and fundamental human rights around the world.
“The decision on the match is one for the SFA and I respect the decision to go ahead with that match, just as I respect the decisions of any fans who choose not to attend.
“But instead of us in Scotland arguing about one football match, I think we should unite behind these two demands: first that Fifa gets its house in order, that allegations of corruption are investigated robustly and anyone found guilty is brought to justice. Secondly that human rights are upheld and respected in every part of the world without exception.”
She added: “If the allegations of corruption around the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar are found to be well founded then there’s a very, very strong case for re-running that competition.”
Meanwhile UK Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said England could step in to host the tournament in 2022 as the country has the facilities after losing out to Russia in its bid to host the 2018 World Cup at the final stage.
Mr Whittingdale said there would be a “very strong” case for re-running bidding for the 2022 World Cup if the original process was corrupt.
He added: “Obviously if Fifa came forward and asked us to consider hosting it, we have the facilities in this country and of course we did mount a very impressive, if unsuccessful bid to host the 2018 World Cup.”
Shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant has claimed it would be “wholly inappropriate” for UK broadcasters to pay money to scandal-hit Fifa for the rights to televise the next two World Cups.
The BBC and ITV signed a deal with football’s world governing body last year to show the tournaments in Russia and Qatar.
The past week has seen a number of Fifa officials arrested by the FBI over alleged corruption prompting the organisation’s long-standing president Sepp Blatter to announce he will quit.
Ms Sturgeon added: “There is no doubt that what is alleged – and I stress alleged – to have been happening in and around Fifa is appalling and it is bringing the reputation of a game that so many people across the country and so many people across the world, love and adore.
“It is absolutely essential that those allegations are dealt with and anybody found guilty is brought to justice and Fifa gets its house in order so that we can all go back to enjoying the wonderful spectacle of sport that we enjoy during World Cups.”
Labour’s Malcolm Chisholm called on ministers to “speak out loudly and clearly against the appalling human right abuses in Qatar”. Ms Sturgeon said ministers share the concern about the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar and “condemn human rights abuses in the strongest possible terms”.