x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Blatter: No issue with World Cup 2022 in Qatar

'Football is not in a crisis', the Fifa president tells a news conference in Zurich, adding that there was 'no case to answer' against four Fifa executive committee members accused of corruption.

Sepp Blatter leaves the podium after announcing in Zurich that there is nothing wrong with the process of Qatar's World Cup 2022 bid.
Sepp Blatter leaves the podium after announcing in Zurich that there is nothing wrong with the process of Qatar's World Cup 2022 bid.

ZURICH // Sepp Blatter said he has “no issue” with the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar yesterday, only a few hours after the revelation that his top deputy had suggested that Qatar had “bought” the event.

“I believe that the decision that we took for World Cup 2022 was done in the same environment that we had made the decision for 2018 [Russia], and there was no problem with that,” said Blatter, the Fifa president. “There is no issue with the World Cup 2022.”

An e-mail from Jerome Valcke, the Fifa general secretary, to the executive committee member Jack Warner seemed to suggest that Qatar had won the 2022 tournament unfairly.

Qatar’s World Cup organisers swiftly and “categorically” denied the claim. Qatar 2022 said it was “urgently seeking clarification from Fifa about the statement from their general secretary. In the meantime we are taking legal advice to consider our options”.

The e-mail came to light just two days before Fifa delegates are scheduled to vote in the presidential election, with Blatter now running unopposed after the other candidate, Qatar’s Mohamed bin Hammam, withdrew.

Bin Hammam and Warner were suspended on Sunday over charges that they were involved in paying Caribbean football leaders US$40,000 (Dh147,000) each to back bin Hammam’s election bid.

Bin Hammam, who is president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), said he would appeal the Fifa decision. “The way these proceedings have been conducted is absolutely not compliant with any principles of justice,” he said.

Valcke confirmed that he sent the e-mail made public by Warner after the latter was suspended.

“For MBH [bin Hammam], I never understood why he was running,” the e-mail said. “If really he thought he had a chance or just being an extreme way to express how much he does not like anymore JSB [Blatter]. Or he thought you can buy Fifa as they bought the WC.”

Valcke, speaking before a Concacaf meeting in Zurich, said: “It was a private e-mail and we will discuss it. He sent me an e-mail asking if I want [bin Hammam to run]. He said that I should ask bin Hammam to pull out.”

Asked whether Valcke’s assertion about Qatar 2022 in the e-mail was true, bin Hammam told the BBC: “You would have to ask Jerome Valcke what he was thinking. I don’t know why he has said that. If I was paying money for Qatar you also have to ask the 13 [other executive committee members] who voted for Qatar.”

Valcke later in the day said that when he used the word “bought” he was referring to Qatar’s adroit use of its financial resources in the bid campaign.

Asked at a news conference about the “crisis” in Fifa, Blatter said: “We are not in a crisis, we are only in some difficulties, and we will solve them in the Fifa family.”

Fifa’s suspension of bin Hammam has met with widespread anger in the Middle East. Yousuf al Serkal, the AFC vice-president from the UAE, said he saw the ban as a bid to remove bin Hammam from tomorrow’s presidential race.

“Bin Hammam has been mistreated,” al Serkal said. “Bin Hammam is the right person who should have been elected. All the allegations were just from a report. I feel sorry for the person I have known for long time as a decent person.”

Blatter also said there was no case to answer against four Fifa executive committee members accused of corruption during a British parliamentary hearing this month.

Fifa received a report from the English Football Association concerning the allegations against Ricardo Teixeira, Nicolas Leoz, Jack Warner and Worawi Makudi.

"We can confirm there are no elements in this report which would even report any proceedings but for the sake of transparency we will agree a comprehensive summary of this report," Blatter said.