Sir Lynton Crosby: Top Tory strategist ‘pitched $7mn campaign to force FIFA to move Qatar World Cup’

Sir Lynton Crosby, photographed in 2014 © Reuters / Stefan Wermuth / Free

Leaked documents have revealed that a Conservative Party strategist offered to spearhead a $7 million campaign to force FIFA to cancel the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar, according to reports in the UK.

Australian Sir Lynton Crosby is said to have put forward a proposal last April pitching the services of his lobbying company CTF Partners to conduct “a campaign to expose the truth of the Qatar regime and bring about the termination of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.” 

The alleged leak, reported by English newspaper The Guardian, revealed that Crosby’s firm would demand $387,000 a month for 18 months to run the campaign, which would aim to report the Qatari government in a negative light and pressure FIFA to restart the bidding process for the 2022 tournament so football’s governing body can award the competition to another nation.

© Reuters / Arnd Wiegmann / Free

The pitch offered to run fake social media campaigns, lobby select politicians and journalists who would be friendly to the idea of seeing the World Cup moved from Qatar.

It also stated that as part of the project CTF Partners would set up full-time hubs around the world to place negative stories about the Qatari regime in key media outlets across the globe.

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The Guardian reported that the documents proposed to work to “expose and undermine the actions of the current regime” in Qatar.

Qatar bid chairman Sheikh Mohammed, FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad © Reuters / Christian Hartmann / Free

“CTF Partners has decades of experience in running campaigns that change or reinforce voter opinions and behaviour,” the document read.

“That experience tells us that an integrated campaign, professionally run and deploying all the levers of influence available can be successful.

“We are confident that though challenging this is equally the case with putting pressure on FIFA to strip Qatar of its right to host the World Cup as for any other campaign that we have run.”

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter © Reuters / Christian Hartmann / Free

The document reportedly detailed how they would achieve their aims, saying, “We would identify all potential ‘allies’ in the media, politics, industry, academia, and government and reach out to them guiding a deliberate attempt to inform and motivate them about the need to reconsider Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup in 2022.

“No false, misleading or unfair claim about Qatar or its World Cup should be allowed to be unchallenged,” it continued.

“The campaign should operate on the basis of rapid rebuttal – always ensuring a vacuum is not left to be filled by Qatar or any of the country’s supporters. As with all other aspects of the campaign this would be the responsibility of a dedicated team.”

Emir Sheikh Hamad and his wife Sheikha Moza © Reuters / Arnd Wiegmann / Free

The pitch is said to have been aimed at controversial Qatari opposition leader Khalid Al-Hail, who lives in London after being imprisoned and tortured in his home nation.

But legal representatives for Crosby stated that no contract was entered into between the two parties and none of the work contained in the leaked documents has been actioned.

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In addition, the lawyers told the Guardian that the work outlined in the pitch documents was “hardly controversial” considering the criticism of Qatar’s winning bid and their human rights record.

© Reuters / Arnd Wiegmann / Free

“It is legitimate for one party to use the services of people/entities such as our clients to put important information into the public domain in an effective manner,” the lawyers stated.

The Qatari World Cup bid has denied multiple accusations of bribing FIFA officials during the bidding process, and has been strongly criticized for the human rights afforded to workers working on the stadia and infrastructure ahead of the tournament.

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