Why has Michel Platini been questioned by French investigators?
France’s Parquet National Financier, which investigates serious financial crime, has since 2017 been looking into possible French corruption in the vote that made Qatar the hosts for the 2022 World Cup. Platini was the Uefa president at the time and, as one of the 22 voting Fifa executive committee members in December 2010, he has acknowledged that he voted for Qatar.
What are the investigators looking into specifically?
The French newspaper Le Monde has reported that the PNF is particularly interested in the now famous lunch nine days before the vote, to which Platini was invited by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. Platini has said that, when he arrived at the Élysée Palace, he found that Sarkozy had with him Tamim al-Thani, then the son of the Qatar Emir, now the Emir himself, and the then prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim.
Platini has said it was clear Sarkozy wanted the Qataris to take over the club he supported, Paris St-Germain, and for Platini to vote for Qatar to host the World Cup. Platini told the Guardian a fortnight ago in Paris before the Fifa congress that he had made his mind up to vote for Qatar before the lunch, having at first considered supporting the USA bid. He said that when he arrived at the lunch and saw the guests, he understood that Sarkozy was supporting Qatar, but has always insisted he was not influenced himself. Sarkozy has denied influencing Platini to vote for Qatar, suggesting in 2015 that he did not have the power to do so.
How has Qatar been prominently involved in France since the vote?
Six months after the World Cup was awarded to Qatar, one of the country’s sovereign wealth funds, Qatar Sports Investments, did take over Paris Saint-Germain, which had been in financial difficulties. QSI has put huge amounts into the club, buying superstars including Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, won six Ligue 1 titles in the last seven years and become fixtures in the Champions League.
The Qatari broadcaster beIN immediately also bought the TV rights for Ligue 1 in France and has continued to pay huge money for the French football rights since. The chairman of beIN, Nasser al-Khelaifi, is also chairman of QSI and president of PSG.
France has also further developed lucrative trade links with the wealthy gulf state, notably the 2011 sale of 50 Airbus planes to Qatar Airways.
Was Platini also questioned about the 2016 European Championship?
Platini confirmed this in a statement issued by his representative. It said he had answered all questions “calmly and precisely, including about the circumstances of the award of Euro 2016”.
Uefa’s executive committee awarded the tournament to France in May 2010, by one vote, over Turkey, of 13 cast in a second ballot. There was some surprise at the time that Turkey came so close but there have been no public allegations made of any corruption.
The tournament should have been a personal triumph for Platini, in his home country where he is a football legend, but in December 2015 he and the then Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, were banned from football for a payment of 2m Swiss francs Platini received from Fifa in 2011. Platini’s ban concludes this October and he is hoping for a return to football involvement.
Could the World Cup be taken away from Qatar if corruption is proved?
This seems very unlikely. In eight and a half years Qatar has retained the tournament through several investigations. Most recently the Qataris sailed through an effort by the current Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, to expand the tournament and share it with neighbouring countries. Qatar has spent billions preparing for the tournament three and a half years away, so an extremely good reason would be needed to remove it.