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article image'Earthquake' needed to change World Cup hosts — Blatter

By Guillaume Klein (AFP)     Dec 19, 2014 in Sports

FIFA will release an "appropriate" version of a report into alleged corruption surrounding the 2018 and 2022 World Cups but president Sepp Blatter on Friday ruled out moving the tournaments from Russia and Qatar.

The wealthy Gulf state of Qatar has faced a storm of controversy over its successful bid for the 2022 tournament.

But Blatter said: "It would really need an earthquake, extremely important new elements to go back on this World Cup in Qatar."

The president of football's ruling body sought to silence a growing number of critics after the FIFA executive unanimously voted to release an edited version of a report drawn up by top US lawyer Michael Garcia.

A file photo taken on June 11  2014 shows FIFA ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia delivering a speech ...
A file photo taken on June 11, 2014 shows FIFA ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia delivering a speech during the 64th FIFA congress in Sao Paulo
Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/File

Garcia resigned on Wednesday as FIFA's top corruption investigator in protest at the body's handling of his report.

A FIFA summary released last month said no corruption had been found. Garcia has strongly attacked the summary prepared by FIFA's most senior judge and said he had found "serious and wide-ranging issues" in the bidding for the two World Cups.

Blatter acknowledged the critics when he said Garcia's report will be released once proceedings against individuals named in the document are completed.

The published report will probably have the names of witnesses who gave evidence to Garcia taken out.

Blatter said the FIFA executive agreed unanimously at a meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, "to publish the report in an appropriate form once the ongoing procedures against individuals are concluded. I am pleased they have agreed."

The names of officials facing action have not been released but European media have named them as Angel Villar Llona of Spain, Michel D'Hooghe of Belgium and Worawi Makudi of Thailand.

"It has been a long process to arrive at this point and I understand the views of those who have been critical," Blatter said.

- FIFA's trust crisis -

"The publication of this report has become a barrier to rebuilding public confidence and trust in FIFA," he added.

The FIFA leader said that cases against individuals were being reviewed by FIFA's adjudicatory chamber.

He added that information on the cases and Garcia's report had been sent to the Swiss prosecutor's office but there was no question of changing the hosts of the next two World Cups.

Blatter is adamant that the 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar
Blatter is adamant that the 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar
Sebastien Bozon, AFP/File

"We will not revisit the 2018 and 2022 vote," he insisted, adding that a report by independent, external legal experts "supports the view that there are no legal grounds to revoke the executive committee's decision on the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups".

He said changes were being made to the FIFA bidding system "so that everyone can be confident that the 2026 bidding process will be fair, ethical and open".

FIFA voted to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 event to Qatar at a meeting in December 2010 that sparked protests as soon as it was finished.

British media reports have said a Qatari football official handed over millions of dollars to federation chiefs in Africa and Asia to get support. The Gulf state has strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Qatar also faces controversy over the timing of the event because of the searing temperatures in the region in the northern hemisphere summer months traditionally used for the World Cup. Blatter is battling with powerful European club leaders over which winter or spring months to choose for the event.

A general view taken on November 13  2014 shows Khalifa Stadium in Doha which is undergoing complete...
A general view taken on November 13, 2014 shows Khalifa Stadium in Doha which is undergoing complete renovation in preparation to host some of the matches for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar
Str, AFP

The corruption storm and battle over the World Cup dates have become major challenges for Blatter ahead of a vote in May 2015 on whether he stays as FIFA's president.

At the moment, the 78-year-old president is favourite to secure a fifth term, but he still faces formidable opposition.

Michel Platini, president of the European confederation UEFA, has called on Blatter to keep an earlier promise to stand down in May. He called Garcia's angry resignation a "new failure" for the FIFA leadership.

"We have come through a crisis but with the executive committee decision it is behind us. We have shown unity and that is the way that we want to take," Blatter told a press conference.

"If God gives me health and luck, then yes I vow to re-establish the reputation of FIFA. But for that I need all the football family," he said.

Meanwhile, Platini described FIFA's decision to publish the Garcia report as "a step in the right direction".

"It was important that the FIFA Executive Committee decided today to publish the Garcia report. I have always battled for transparency and this is a step in the right direction," Platini said in a statement released by UEFA.

"Let us hope that the report can now be published as quickly as possible. The credibility of FIFA depends on it."

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