DOHA: The TV broadcasting rights deal agreed for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups, which is under investigation by Swiss prosecutors, was “advantageous for FIFA”, a beIN spokesman claimed on Saturday.
“The financial conditions were the most advantageous for FIFA,” the spokesman told AFP, after it was announced on Thursday that beIN Media chief and PSG chairman Nasser al-Khelaifi was under investigation over the sale of the rights.
Although no official figure for the broadcasting contract has been officially announced — or even the deal itself — the cost is thought to be considerably more expensive than previous agreements.
The contract covers broadcasting rights for the MENA (Middle East, North Africa) region for the tournaments.
Khelaifi was placed under investigation along with disgraced former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, Sepp Blatter’s right-hand man at FIFA until both were drummed out of world football’s governing body.
The beIN spokesman said the deal was signed off by FIFA’s executive committee, the governing body’s main decision-making body at the time.
Despite apparently approving the deal however, FIFA has also stated that it is investigating Khelaifi over the media rights issue.
The beIN spokesman denied any wrongdoing on the part of the Qatar-based broadcaster.
“The allegation of corruption is totally unfounded because we didn’t have to compete for the MENA rights for 2026/2030,” he said. “There was no competition.”
Khelaifi, who has strong connections to Qatar’s royal family, and Valcke also face accusations that a luxury Sardinian villa was put at the disposal of the former FIFA man who is serving a 10-year ban from all football-related activity.
The villa, set in lush grounds on the Mediterranean island and has an estimated value of seven million euros ($8.3 million), is owned by an international real estate agency.
The investigation comes in the wake of Valcke’s appearance at the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Wednesday to overturn his ban.
The corruption accusations are the latest to rock world football which is still reeling from the events of 2015 when FIFA officials were arrested en masse at the governing body’s annual conference.
They are also the latest allegations to target Qatar.
The Gulf state has found itself routinely accused of corruption since controversially winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup, charges it has always denied.
The Swiss attorney general’s office has said their investigation is focused on media rights for upcoming World Cups between 2018-30 and includes allegations of bribery, fraud, criminal mismanagement and forgery of a document.
Prosecutors have indicated that Khelaifi was under suspicion only for actions taken as the head of the beIN group.
The Qatar broadcaster has denied any wrongdoing while confirming French authorities had raided the company’s Paris offices at the request of Swiss authorities.
Officials at beIN say they only found out about the investigation, which began in March, on Thursday.
Khelaifi is currently in Qatar and has met lawyers while in Doha.
However, it is thought he may travel to PSG’s Champions League game against Belgian side Anderlecht in Brussels on Wednesday.
An increasingly prominent figure in sports and media, Khelaifi oversaw Paris Saint-Germain’s audacious 222 million euro world record signing of Brazilian superstar Neymar in August.
PSG, which was bought by Qatar Sports Investments in 2011, is not implicated in the Swiss investigation.
Headquartered in Doha, beIN Media group has a portfolio of channels in countries including France, Turkey and Australia.
As well as sports broadcasting it has moved into entertainment industry and also owns the film company Miramax.