(Amends date ICSS was launched)
By Tom Finn
DOHA, April 27 (Reuters) - An anti-corruption sports watchdog funded by Qatar as part of its rapid rise as a destination for major sporting events is laying off about a quarter of its staff in a rare case of the Gulf monarchy scaling back.
The International Center for Sports Security (ICSS), which campaigns on sporting security, safety and integrity, told 20 employees their jobs would go due to budget cuts, said a source who declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak publicly.
The ICSS said in an emailed statement: “The ICSS has restructured and is reorganising and ... we can confirm that some staff will be affected. The roles that are affected will be distributed internationally across the ICSS Group.”
Qatar, the world’s largest liquefied natural gas exporter, has invested huge sums into sports, seeking to diversify and present a modern face to the world. As well as the 2022 soccer World Cup, Qatar will host the World Championships in Athletics in 2019 and is expected to bid for the 2028 summer Olympic Games, among other events.
But a nearly three-year slump in oil and gas prices has forced it to make budget cuts that have affected culture and arts projects but not yet made a dent on its sports ambitions.
Headed by a retired Qatari colonel, ICSS was launched in 2011, about three months after Qatar won its bid to host the World Cup. With staff in Doha, London and New York, it employs 80 people and hosts conferences and funds studies.
It has an annual budget of $26 million, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, that is 70 percent provided by the government of Qatar.
Critics say it has a public perception problem because of investigations into allegations about how Qatar won the 2022 World Cup hosting rights. Qatar denies any wrongdoing. (Editing by Robin Pomeroy)