I’ve hit a bit of dead end on this, mostly because sources I know close to this won’t speak on the record about what they know.
I will say this for now: I have reason to believe that Oliver Kay, the writer who broke this story, did in fact get the relevant details of this story including the name Dream Football League from Rob Beal, and that the details were almost certainly cribbed from the Cahiers du Football article. Several others have independently verified this not with Kay, but with Beal (he could also be lying, but I doubt it).
I also have reason to believe that Kay or his editors may have unwittingly or purposefully misled those involved into thinking Kay knew this information prior to Tuesday, when CdF first published their satirical piece. I also do not know this for certain. I do know that CdF stands by their story, and there is no reason to believe they’d have a reason to lie.
Finally, while I have no proof otherwise, I know people close to Kay are adamant that he likely had several sources, not one, and that the core story is likely built on a kernel of truth. I have since heard of a feasibility study possibly paid for by Qatar in 2010 on such a league. Certainly, no one reacted with incredulity that the football-ambitious Qatar would come up with such a plan. It’s not far-fetched they would be moving on something, particularly with the regular threats of the European Club Association going it alone apart from UEFA.
Therefore my guess (just a guess lawyers) is that Kay heard something in the mix, Beal did a quick search, and fed him information from Cahiers on the hunch that it was true. And for whatever reason, Kay may have used them without checking up on them further. Beal after presents himself as a Paris based media insider, despite ample evidence he is permanently based in Sheffield.
One journalist I spoke with did mention that this thing “happens more often than you might think.” This isn’t news to those of us who follow the rumour cycle closely, but this one is different. It clearly feeds into a concrete fear in Europe of Qatar ‘buying’ European football as their own play thing. This sort of story has consequences.
I need to stress that most involved have repeatedly backed up Kay as a trustworthy, thorough journalist. I have no reason to doubt them, but the closing of the ranks despite all that has emerged in the past 24 hours is more than a little depressing. We’re not covering the war here—it’s just football, really—but a mistake—probably an honest one, but I don’t know—was likely made, and it will soon get buried.
I did my part. If you know something about this and want to speak on the record, please let me know.