Awarding World Cup to Qatar a mistake, admits FIFA's Blatter
Sepp Blatter has branded FIFA's awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar a "mistake" and admitted the tournament would almost certainly have to move to the winter.
The FIFA president gave his strongest indication yet that he disagreed with his own executive committee's controversial decision to hand football's biggest event to the Gulf state.
"Of course, it was a mistake. You know, one comes across a lot of mistakes in life," said Blatter, who is thought to have voted for the United States to host the tournament.
"The Qatar technical report indicated clearly that it is too hot in summer, but the executive committee with quite a big majority decided that the tournament would be in Qatar."
Asked whether the World Cup was likely to be held in the European winter, the 78-year-old told Swiss television station RTS: "It's probable, yes. In fact, it's more than probable."
Mr Blatter's comments were met with derision by critics who argued the 2022 World Cup should never have been awarded to a desert state where daytime summer temperatures rarely fall below 40C.
English broadcaster Gary Lineker wrote on Twitter: "Blatter – everyone makes mistakes. Pretty big one. He's the man in charge. I imagine his resignation letter is being composed as we tweet!"
Britain's shadow international development secretary Jim Murphy said: "Sepp Blatter's hand-wringing won't do any good for anyone."
Mr Murphy added that some migrant workers in Qatar were "suffering industrial scale exploitation that would make any true football fan feel sick".
But FIFA's British vice-president Jim Boyce last night rallied behind Mr Blatter, saying he "absolutely agreed" with the strongest indication yet that the World Cup will be moved – potentially causing major disruption to the sporting calendar.
Mr Boyce (70) said: "The tournament needs to be staged in favourable conditions but I await the report from stakeholders which will go to the executive committee."
Mr Blatter also used the interview to give the clearest indication yet that he will formally announce his intention to stand for a fifth term as FIFA president next month. Amid speculation that UEFA president Michel Platini – once considered a close ally of Mr Blatter – may run for president at the 2015 elections, Mr Blatter appeared to warn off his potential rival. He said the Frenchman "is a man with a very deep character; he wouldn't do it".
Mr Blatter hinted the selection of Qatar in the 2010 ballot was due to pressure from Germany and France, with then French president Nicolas Sarkozy convening the Qatari Emir and Platini at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
He said: "You couldn't imagine the Swiss president doing that." France's foreign ministry said the suggestion that French pressure contributed to the controversial award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was "unfounded".
The news follows weeks of disclosures about the circumstances surrounding the controversial 2010 ballot that awarded Qatar the World Cup.
In March, 'The Daily Telegraph' revealed that former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner and his family were paid millions by a company owned by the former FIFA executive committee member for Qatar.
Further disclosures revealed that the daughter of a former executive committee member had more than £2m (€2.3m) put into her account, and a senior FIFA official's son was given a job at a private Qatari hospital after the decision to award the country the World Cup. (© Daily Telegraph, London)