By Sohaila Barghash
The newspaper announced on Sunday, that Lynton Crosby, a UK-based Australian political strategist, signed the pitch that aimed to destroy the reputation of Qatar, setting the ground for the country to be expelled from holding the 2022 World Cup.
Guardian’s report stated that the campaign aimed to “associate Doha with terrorism in the minds of the public”.
Based on the documents, Crosby requested $6.4m payable to his lobbying firm, CTF Partners.
Crosby also said that he was asked to pressure FIFA to “restart the bidding process”.
The document named “Project Ball” stated that: CTF Partners could set up full-time war rooms to spread fake, negative stories about Qatar in the mainstream media and on social media around the world, as well as lobby potentially Qatar-friendly politicians, journalists and academics.
The pitch was brought to the surface as part of an investigation on the growing involvement of the UK in global lobbying campaigns, especially in the Middle East, and it was viewed by the Guardian and the campaign group Spinwatch.
According to the article published by the Guardian, “a self-styled Qatari opposition leader based in London named Khalid Al-Hail” was Crosby’s potential client.
The report also added: “Al-Hail has faced repeated questions over his funding and the nature of his campaign activities in London, which include his businesses paying MPs and prominent football players to appear at anti-Qatar events… his events have often aligned with the foreign policy objectives of Qatar’s regional enemies in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.”
CTF Partners told the Guardian it provided Al-Hail with “a minimal amount of media advice” during Qatar’s Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s visit to London last year.
The Guardian reported that “During this visit, a PR company that had previously worked with Al-Hail made a disastrously farcical attempt to pay hundreds of actors to protest outside Downing Street during the emir’s visit to see Theresa May”.
Crosby rejected the publication’s request for comment on claims made by his company that it provided PR support for Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince MBS during his state visit to the UK last year.
Additionally, Crosby’s lawyers said there was neither a contract with Al-Hail nor a proposal to cooperate.
For the past year and a half, Qatar has been under a sea, air and land blockade initiated and imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt.
This blockade was backed by claims that Qatar supports “terrorism” and is seeking closer ties with Iran, accusations that have no proof and were repeatedly denied by Qatar.