Sepp Blatter says Qatar will not lose World Cup
Decision undermines Fifa investigation into 2022 bidding process
Fifa president Sepp Blatter said a final decision on which months to play the 2022 World Cup in Qatar might be delayed until 2015. Photograph: Getty
The Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, has told Qatari World Cup 2022 organisers that there is no way they will be stripped of the tournament whatever the outcome of an ongoing corruption investigation or the other controversies surrounding it.
Blatter’s statement effectively undermines the ongoing investigation by Michael Garcia, a former Interpol vice-president who now leads the investigatory arm of Fifa’s ethics committee, into the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Garcia will shortly embark on a global evidence-gathering tour of all nine bidding countries to gather witness statements from those involved in a controversial process marred by corruption allegations. But despite ongoing concern over workers’ rights in Qatar and the move to shift the tournament to winter, which will not now be confirmed until late next year at the earliest, Blatter repeatedly insisted the 2022 tournament would take place in the tiny Gulf state come what may.
“The Fifa World Cup 2022 will be played in Qatar. There you have it,” he said at the end of a two-day executive committee meeting that took Fifa another step along the road to a move to shift the 2022 tournament to winter.
But, in a decision that will be seen as a small victory for those including the English Premier League who have lobbied for more consideration to be given to the logistics, the commission will not report back until after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Blatter said a final verdict on when to play in 2022 was possible in late 2014 but it could take until 2015, which would align the consultation process almost exactly with the election of the next Fifa president.
Having previously said he would not stand for another four-year term, Blatter is expected to do just that. The controversy surrounding the timing of the Qatar World Cup, which was backed by his potential rival for the presidency Michel Platini, may help his campaign.
Bowed to pressure
In taking up to two years to look into the impact of switching the World Cup to winter to avoid searing summer temperatures, Blatter has bowed to the pressure from broadcasting partners and professional leagues to take a more measured approach.
Uefa’s 54 members have already voted in principle to back a move to winter and Blatter has said the tournament cannot be played in June temperatures that regularly reach 50 degrees.
Blatter did not rule out paying compensation to broadcasters affected by the switch to winter. US broadcasters Fox and NBC are concerned about the potential impact of a switch that would mean a clash with the NFL season.
The Fifa president again said it was within its rights to move the World Cup to winter, despite loud protests from losing bidders for 2022, including Australia.