England could play Qatar in a friendly before the 2022 World Cup after the Football Association signed memorandums of understanding with both the Qatar Football Association and organizers of the tournament in the Gulf State.
Less than four years after then-FA chairman Greg Dyke branded the award of the game’s biggest event to Qatar as the “worst moment in Fifa’s history” and called for it to be stripped of the tournament if bribes had been paid help to secure it, successor Greg Clarke was in Doha striking agreements focusing on cooperation and sharing of expertise.
The two FAs also committed to exploring the possibility of organizing friendly matches between the national teams across different age groups.
Dyke was an arch-critic of the discredited 2010 decision to hand the World Cup to Qatar, which is still the subject of criminal investigations in both the United States and Switzerland amid accusations Fifa members were paid or offered other incentives to vote for it.
But with Clarke looking to build alliances with other FAs ahead of a possible bid for the 2030 tournament and the Government eager to do the same post-Brexit, the rhetoric on Wednesday could hardly have been more different.
Declaring the FA “pleased” to be signing the memorandums, Clarke said: “We have a long history of collaboration with various national associations to share knowledge and experience to support the development of football.
“For Qatar, developing the game across the country is a key objective as they approach the hosting of the Fifa World Cup in 2022.”</span>
Accompanying Clarke was the British Ambassador to Qatar, Ajay Sharma, who said: “This will mark the beginning of even deeper cooperation between our two countries, and underlines the UK’s support for Qatar in delivering a successful World Cup 2022.”
Clarke and Sharma earlier visited Khalifa International Stadium, the first 2022 World Cup venue to open, the redevelopment of which was said two years ago by Amnesty International to have seen migrant workers subjected to systematic labour abuse.
Amnesty’s head of policy, Allan Hogarth, said: “The FA needs to keep the pressure on the Qatari authorities to ensure that long-promised labour reforms are actually implemented. Football shouldn’t come at the expense of workers’ rights. The post-Qatar 2022 legacy for thousands of migrant workers in Qatar is likely to mean being saddled with crippling debt or, in some cases, painful memories of working in conditions amounting to forced labour.”
Organisers have always denied paying bribes to secure the tournament and have also committed to safeguarding workers’ rights at tournament venues.