BeIN's Al-Obaidly strongly denies involvement in IAAF bid corruption allegation
By Callum Murray
Yousef Al-Obaidly, chief executive of BeIN Media Group, the Qatar-based international broadcaster heavily involved in sport, has strongly denied a report that he is involved in a corruption investigation together with Lamine Diack, the disgraced former president of the IAAF, athletics’ world governing body.
Al-Obaidly and Diack were reported yesterday to be under investigation by magistrates who are said to be considering charging him with active corruption, with Diack as a key witness who would be charged with ‘passive corruption’, over the award of this year’s World Athletics Championships to Doha in Qatar.
However, in a statement, Al-Obaidly denied the claim, saying: “I voluntarily attended an appointed meeting as part of a preliminary investigation. The allegations raised are not only utterly baseless and unsubstantiated, but they have been – quite remarkably – leaked to the media. For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, the allegations are completely and categorically denied and will be vehemently challenged using the full force of the law. It would not be appropriate to say anything further.”
Sportcal understands that Al-Obaidly’s grounds for denying the allegation are that:
1. Al-Obaidly was an adviser on Qatar’s bid for the IAAF World Championships in 2017, not 2019. Those championships were won by London, not Qatar.
2. A so-called ‘special purpose vehicle’ called Oryx was set up to handle rights including sponsorship, TV, ticketing, events and hospitality for the bid, as required by the IAAF bid process.
3. Oryx undertook to pay $32.5 million for the commercial rights, of which $3.5 million was paid upfront as a non-refundable deposit. This deposit was lost when London, not Doha, won the bid - a commercial risk that Al-Obaidly and Oryx were prepared to take.
4. All transactions at the time were legally and properly documented and communicated to the IAAF. All actions taken at the time were in full compliance with any terms and conditions as laid down by the IAAF and its representatives and agents (Dentsu, the Japanese advertising giant that acts for the IAAF, and Papa Massata Diack, the son of Lamine Diack who was a marketing consultant to the IAAF at the time).
The allegations concerning Al-Obaidly come in the same week that French prosecutors have said that Lamine and Papa Massata Diack should go on trial over allegations that they helped cover up doping by Russian athletes in exchange for cash.
In an indictment handed to prosecutors earlier this week, the Diacks are accused of various illegal practices, including bribe-taking and money-laundering, with the active involvement of international athletes and their federations.
Lamine Diack, now aged 85, and who was IAAF president from 1999 to 2015, is accused of being prepared to accept funding for political campaigns in his native Senegal in return for lenient treatment by IAAF anti-doping officials of Russian athletes.
Diack senior, who is under house arrest in France, and his son, who is in Senegal, have denied wrongdoing. Senegal has refused extradition requests for Papa Massata Diack.
This year’s World Athletics Championship are scheduled to take place at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on 27 September to 6 October.