Qatar 2022 'not touched' by graft probe: Blatter

Media representatives wait in front of the Home of FIFA, ahead of a press conference in Zurich, Switzerland. (AP)

Blatter dismissed claims of corruption in relation to statements made by England’s former 2018 World Cup bid chief Lord David Triesman and the Sunday Times newspaper at an extraordinary press conference yesterday following an executive committee meeting.

Questioned on whether there would be changes to Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup, Blatter said things would go ahead as planned. “The World Cup 2022 is not touched by that [corruption probe]. Same with the World Cup 2018,” he added.

A number of Fifa executive committee members were accused of bribery in relation to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids but Blatter used the platform in front of the world’s press to reiterate his support for his colleagues.

Triesman, earlier this month, made allegations against Nicolas Leoz (Paraguay), Ricardo Texeira (Brazil), Worawi Makudi (Thailand), Jack Warner (Trinidad and Tobago) in relation to the 2018 bid process which went to Russia ahead of England.

The Sunday Times newspaper alleged Issa Hayatou and Jacques Anouma were allegedly paid money to vote for 2022 candidate and bid winners Qatar.

Addressing the press in Zurich, Blatter said: “The executive committee of Fifa was very pleased to receive the report of the Football Association regarding the allegations made on May 10 by Lord David Triesman at the House of Commons against four Fifa ExCo members.

“And we were happy that we can confirm there are no elements in this report which would even prompt any proceedings.
“But for the sake of transparency Fifa and the FA, we have agreed that a comprehensive summary of this report made by James Dingemans on behalf of the FA would be published. The summary can be read on FIFA.com.

“Furthermore we were happy that we have not received any evidence whatsoever from the Sunday Times or from any announced whistleblower with regards to allegations made against other members of the executive committee. Therefore the same – what hall we do with this elements and these reports – nothing.”

“Crisis? What is a crisis? Football is not in a crisis,” Blatter said at the news conference, two days before FIFA’s presidential vote in which he is now the only candidate as he seeks a fourth term.

“We are not in a crisis, we are only in some difficulties and these difficulties will be solved – and they will be solved inside this family.”

Those “difficulties” are widespread corruption allegations that have tainted the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar and led to former presidential rival Mohamed bin Hammam and FIFA vice president Jack Warner being provisionally suspended.

On Sunday, bin Hammam and Warner were suspended by an ethics committee pending investigation into allegations that Caribbean football leaders were paid $40,000 each to back bin Hammam’s presidential bid.

Bin Hammam said he would appeal his suspension, saying “the way these proceedings have been conducted is absolutely not compliant with any principles of justice” and that they “had been defined from the very beginning.”

The 62-year-old Qatari, who is also suspended from his role as president of the Asian Football Confederation, published his submission to the ethics committee on his personal website.

In it, he acknowledges that he provided $360,000 for “travel and accommodations” of the 25 Caribbean Football Union members attending a May 10-11 extraordinary meeting in Warner’s native Trinidad.

Chuck Blazer, the American general secretary of CONCACAF and a longtime FIFA executive panel member, sparked the crisis by submitting a file of evidence.

In a statement issued early Tuesday, the AFC backed bin Hammam and confirmed that its most senior vice president, China’s Zhang Jilong, will be acting president of the confederation.

“We, the members of the AFC Executive Committee, express our deepest concern at the latest developments within FIFA and that involves the AFC President Mohamed bin Hammam,” the statement read. “We will be following the investigation as it takes its course. We hope the outcome of the investigation will be in the best interests of football in Asia and beyond.”

Blatter began Monday's impromptu news conference in resolute style but later seemed overcome by the pointed questions aimed primarily at his 13-year rule.

Having given staccato answers to difficult questions, he lectured journalists to behave with “respect” and “elegance.”
“You are not in a bazaar here, you are in the FIFA house,” Blatter scolded one heckling reporter.

 

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