Sepp Blatter has cast further doubt over the legitimacy of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding process by claiming there was an agreement in place to award the tournaments to Russia and the USA before voting had begun.
In December 2010, the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively by Fifa's executive committee but Blatter, the suspended Fifa president, has suggested there was an agreement in place regarding who would host the competitions.
A number of countries, including England, spent millions of pounds during a process that has since been tainted by alleged corruption. Blatter's claim prompted an angry response from the English FA chairman Greg Dyke, who said they would now investigate the possibility of recovering the £21 million spent on the failed bid – £2.5 million of it public money.
In a remarkable interview published by the Russian news agency Tass, Blatter described at length his difficult relationship with the Uefa president, Michel Platini.
The pair have been banned from football activity for 90 days by the Fifa ethics committee, which – as well as Swiss criminal authorities – is investigating a £1.35 million (€1.88 million) payment made to Platini by Fifa in 2011. Both men deny wrongdoing.
Course of events
Blatter (79) believes Fifa would not have become engulfed in a crisis had the USA been awarded the 2022 World Cup instead of Qatar, saying the intervention of the then-president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, proved crucial in changing the pre-planned course of events.
“In 2010 we had a discussion of the World Cup and then we went to a double decision,” said Blatter. “For the World Cups it was agreed that we go to Russia because it’s never been in eastern Europe, 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 Sarkozy came in a meeting with the crown prince of Qatar, who is now the ruler of Qatar [Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani]. And at a lunch afterwards with Mr Platini he said it would be good to go to Qatar. And this has changed all pattern.
“There was an election by secret ballot. Four votes from Europe went away from the USA and so the result was 14 to eight. If you put the four votes, it would have been 12 to 10. 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, who described his suspension as “total nonsense” and England as “bad losers”, attacked Platini throughout the interview and attempted to explain the £1.35m payment Fifa made to the former France player. Asked why his relationship with Platini had broken down, Blatter said: “You will have to ask him and we will know. Because he wanted to be Fifa president. But he had not the courage to go as the president. But Fifa is working well. Since I became president of Fifa, we have made Fifa big commercial company. And this naturally provokes envy and jealousy.”
On the £1.35m payment, Blatter continued: “When he was chairman of the organising committee for the France World Cup, he told me at the end of the cup: ‘I would like to work for you.’ And I said this is great because we all already worked with him. It was in 1998. In 2010 he approached the financial director of Fifa by saying: ‘Hey, listen, Fifa owes us money.’ I was informed about that and I said: ‘Okay let him make an invoice of this what we owe him.’
“And then he said we owe him two million Swiss francs. And then I analysed that and I said okay. Yes, it’s a contract we have made. It’s a principle I have in my life that if you owe money to somebody, then you pay it. Then we paid it. That’s all. And this money was not paid for any other reasons.”
He added: “I was bitterly affected by how I was abandoned by my own country. The Swiss media got very aggressive against me because I am from a very small canton, Valais, in the mountains and some of the people here think those coming from the mountains eat with their fingers. Primitive.”
Platini was confirmed yesterday as one of seven candidates for the Fifa presidency, with Blatter’s successor to be decided at February’s election in Zurich. Guardian Service