Cup hosts 'not pre-determined'

MOSCOW • Fifa president Sepp Blatter planned for Russia and the United States to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Finals.

But his wish for the two tournaments to go to "the two biggest political powers" was not a pre-arranged decision, his spokesman has clarified.

"It was not an agreement, this was his proposal and of course it then went to the vote at the executive committee," Klaus Stoehlker said.

In an interview with Russian news agency Tass, Blatter seemed to suggest that there was a backroom deal to give Russia the 2018 World Cup Finals and the 2022 tournament to the US before voting took place.

"We had a discussion of the World Cup and then we went to a double decision," he told Tass.

"For the World Cup Finals it was agreed that we go to Russia (for 2018)... and for 2022 we go back to America. And so we will have the World Cup in the two biggest political powers."

Blatter added that a lunch between Michel Platini, senior Qatari officials and then French president Nicolas Sarkozy led to a change of heart by the Uefa president.

"There was an election by secret ballot. Four votes from Europe went away from the USA," the 79-year-old Swiss said.

Fifa's executive committee awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

Stoehlker said he spoke to Blatter following the interview and the Swiss stressed there had been no agreement before the vote of the Fifa executive committee. Rather, it was his personal wish was for Russia and the US to be hosts.

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke had anticipated that Blatter would back-track but said on Wednesday that his organisation would investigate the initial claim that the 2018 result was fixed.

England spent £21 million (S$44.8 million) on its 2018 bid, securing just two votes, and he said "it would be very nice to get taxpayers' money back".

"I suspect the response from Blatter will be, 'I was misquoted.' If he says that then I think there is something to investigate," Dyke told the British Parliament's culture, media and sport committee in London.

"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, it's suggesting that it was all fixed anyway."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2015, with the headline 'Cup hosts 'not pre-determined''. Print Edition | Subscribe