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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

FIFA Concedes Qatar and Spain/Portugal Traded Votes in World Cup Bids

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has for the first time publicly confirmed that Qatar and Spain and Portugal colluded to trade votes for their respective 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The British newspaper said Blatter disclosed the collusion in an interview with the BBC. An online BBC excerpt of the interview makes no mention of the admission.

“I’ll be honest, there was a bundle of votes between Spain and Qatar,” the Telegraph quoted Blatter as telling the BBC. “But it was a nonsense. It was there but it didn’t work, not for one and not for the other side.”

If true, Blatter’s confirmation raises question why FIFA officials have repeatedly said that their investigation into allegations of collusion between Qatar and Spain and Portugal had produced no evidence of a deal to trade votes.

It is likely to also spark challenges to the awarding of the 2022 tournament to Qatar and perhaps also Russia’s winning of the 2018 bid.

Qatar competed against the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea while Russia and Spain/Portugal were fighting off rival bids from England and a combination of The Netherlands and Belgium. England was particularly bitter about its loss.

The alleged deal between Qatar and Spain and Portugal is believed to have involved seven of the 22 FIFA executive committee votes last December. The Iberian bid won seven votes in two rounds of voting before it was eliminated.

If Blatter’s admission is correct, those votes would account for seven of the 12 votes that won Qatar its right to host the world’s biggest sporting event.

It was not immediately clear why Blatter chose to disclose the collusion. One explanation may be that it would weaken the campaign by Asian Football Confederation chief Mohamed Bin Hammam, a Qatari national with close ties to the Gulf state’s ruling family, to end Blatter’s 12-year tenure as FIFA president.

Blatter is up for re-election in May.

Bin Hammam has argued that Blatter needed to be removed to ensure greater transparency within FIFA and repair the soccer world body’s image tarnished by repeated charges of corruption.

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