Friday 19 January 2018

Blatter: Fifa planned to give Russians the World Cup before vote even held

Sepp Blatter and his girlfriend Linda Barras at the opening ceremony of the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich earlier this year
Sepp Blatter and his girlfriend Linda Barras at the opening ceremony of the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich earlier this year

Dean Gray

The English Football Association was consulting its lawyers last night following Sepp Blatter's stunning disclosure that FIFA had decided to give the 2018 World Cup finals to Russia before the vote even took place.

The FA spent £21m (€29.3m) on its attempt to bring the 2018 tournament to England, including £2.5m (€3.5m) of public money from local authorities. Greg Dyke, the chairman, told MPs yesterday that it would be "very nice" to get that back.

Dyke was sceptical about the prospect of successfully suing Fifa, but refused to rule out legal action if its suspended president stood by comments made in an interview with the Russian news agency Tass.

Fifa's ethics committee said it was monitoring matters "with interest" amid calls for it to reopen its investigation into the awarding of the next two World Cup finals.

In addition to England, joint bids from Spain-Portugal and Belgium-Holland spent significant sums on ill-fated efforts to secure hosting football's biggest event and could try to seek compensation.


It comes after Blatter admitted the 2018 tournament was always lined up to go to Russia and the following edition to the US until Michel Platini, the UEFA president, decided to throw his weight behind Qatar's 2022 bid.

Giving evidence to a House of Commons committee, Dyke said: "There's nothing Mr Blatter says that surprises me much. If he is saying, 'We wanted Russia', and it looks like he wanted that fixed before the vote was held, it's suggesting that it was all fixed anyway."

Asked if the FA would seek to reclaim its bid costs, Dyke replied: "We will obviously go back and look at it. I think it would be a good idea. But get the bid costs back from whom? From Fifa? I agree it would be very nice to get taxpayers' money back."

"We will go back and ask questions about what Blatter has said. We will ask some questions about what he has said and talk to our own lawyers, but this is uncharted territory."

In an interview with Tass, in which his attempts to blame Platini's efforts to oust him as president for triggering the crisis to have engulfed Fifa saw him end up implicating himself, Blatter did not expand on who precisely had "agreed" for Russia to be hosts in 2018.

Branding England and the US "bad losers", he said: "In 2010, we had a discussion of the World Cup and then we went to a double decision. For the World Cups, it was agreed that we go to Russia because it's never been in Russia, and for 2022 we go back to America. And so we will have the World Cup in the two biggest political powers.

"And everything was good until the moment when [French president Nicolas] Sarkozy came in. In a meeting with the crown prince of Qatar, and at a lunch afterwards with Mr Platini, he said it would be good to go to Qatar. And this has changed the whole pattern.

"If the USA was given the World Cup, we would only speak about the wonderful World Cup 2018 in Russia and we would not speak about any problems at Fifa."

Blatter, facing criminal proceedings in relation to a €2m payment to Platini in 2011 and over TV rights deals sold to Jack Warner, said there was "no possibility" that Russia would be stripped of the 2018 tournament.

Dyke was also quizzed by MPs over the FA's backing for Platini before the Frenchman was provisionally banned pending an ethics committee hearing into the €2m payment for work carried out at least nine years previously.

The FA chairman confirmed the decision to suspend support for the Frenchman came after it emerged that no written contract existed legitimising the transaction.

He admitted that he thought it "unlikely" Platini would be able to proceed with a bid for the Fifa presidency.

Dyke was critical of Fifa's auditor, KPMG, over its apparent failure to log the Platini payment or other controversial transactions.

"Where has KPMG been for all these years?" he said. "Quite big sums of money do not appear to have been accounted for. If Mr Blatter paid Mr Platini £1.5m 10 years later, how is that accounted for, where did it come from?"

Irish Independent

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