x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Fifa to meet with Qatar World Cup bid source

Source to meet officials over allegations of bribery.

Fifa is to interview a person who has information on Qatar's 2022 World Cup bid over allegations that bribes were paid to African voters, Sepp Blatter said.

The Fifa president said The Sunday Times, the British newspaper, has agreed to bring its source to meet senior Fifa officials, who must then decide whether to order a new investigation into alleged World Cup bidding corruption.

"[The Sunday Times] are happy, they agreed that they will bring this whistleblower here to Zurich and then we will have a discussion, an investigation of this," Blatter said.

The source claims that Fifa executive committee members Issa Hayatou and Jacques Anouma were paid $1.5 million (Dh5.5m) to vote for Qatar. The nation's bid beat the United States in a final round of voting last December.

Blatter did not rule out reopening the 2022 vote if corruption could be proved, but urged taking the matter "step by step".

The Fifa president said his organisation is "anxiously awaiting" more evidence before asking its ethics committee to examine allegations made in Britain's parliament last week.

Blatter said the situation must be "clarified" by May 27 - five days before Blatter stands for re-election against Qatari challenger Mohamed bin Hammam.

Bin Hammam played a central role in Qatar's victory to secure 2022 World Cup hosting rights.

Qatar's success has been called into question since The Sunday Times submitted claims to a British inquiry into football governance, which included England's failed bid to win 2018 hosting rights.

Legislators released claims by a former bid employee that Qatar agreed to pay members of Fifa's 24-man executive committee for their votes.

"It was said in such a way that 'we are giving it to you'," the source reportedly said. "It was going to their federation."

The source said Qatar agreed to pay a third African voter, Amos Adamu, for his support. The Nigerian was later suspended from voting after a Fifa ethics court ruled he solicited bribes from undercover Sunday Times reporters posing as lobbyists.

Blatter said the newspaper and the source would meet with Jerome Valcke, the Fifa secretary general, and Marco Villiger, the legal director.

All six Fifa voters placed under suspicion have denied wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, the English Football Association (FA) has comfirmed it will abstain in the vote between Blatter and bin Hammam to be Fifa president.

"The FA Board has today agreed to abstain in the vote for the presidency of Fifa," the FA said in a statement ahead of the June 1 vote.

"There are a well-reported range of issues both recent and current which, in the view of the FA board, make it difficult to support either candidate."

The FA board was shocked by Fifa's executive committee after being comprehensively beaten in the race to host the 2018 World Cup.

After attracting only two votes, one of them its own, FA officials and bid representatives said that potential voters had lied to them and that the voting system was flawed. Russia won the bid.

Blatter has branded the FA's decision to abstain as "strange".

Blatter queried the decision and said the FA's special Fifa privileges meant they had a responsibility to play a leading role in world football.

He said in an interview at Fifa headquarters in Zurich: "It is a bit strange when the number one association in the world – which is the FA – have two candidates to choose from and they cannot make a decision which one they support. It's strange."