SUSPENDED Fifa president Sepp Blatter has suggested there was an agreement in place for Russia to host the 2018 World Cup – before the vote took place.
The 79-year-old told Russian news agency Tass of a “discussion” in 2010 about future World Cups.
He said a late swing in voting that gave Qatar the 2022 World Cup undid a similar agreement to hand it to the US.
Swiss Blatter is serving a 90-day ban alongside Uefa chief Michel Platini, 60, and both deny any wrongdoing.
Asked whether it was a mistake to hold voting for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments simultaneously, Blatter replied that before the ballot: “It was agreed inside the group that we go to Russia because it has never been to eastern Europe, and for 2022 we go back to America.
“And so we would have the World Cup in the two biggest political powers.”
But he added that four votes from Europe later switched from the USA to Qatar.
The bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments is the subject of an ongoing Swiss criminal investigation. It was begun alongside a US inquiry following the arrest and indictment of several top executives by the US Department of Justice on corruption charges.
How England’s failed 2018 bid team reacted
Simon Johnson, then chief operating officer of England’s failed 2018 World Cup bid, was livid about Blatter’s comments, saying England’s Football Association had “every right to bring legal action against Fifa”.
The FA spent Â£21m, including Â£2.5m of public money from local authorities, on England’s attempt to host the 2018 tournament.
“All the way through the process we were being told by high-ranking Fifa officials that as long as we put together a strong bid and a good presentation we would have a lot to offer,” Johnson told BBC Radio 5 live.
He added that the bid team “played by the rules” and, “right until the night before” the vote, thought they had “every chance”.
FA chairman Greg Dyke said English football’s governing body will investigate Blatter’s revelation about the 2018 World Cup.
Giving evidence to the UK Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Dyke said it would be “very nice to get taxpayers’ money back”, adding that the FA would “talk to our own lawyers, but this is uncharted territory”.
What else did Blatter reveal?
In a wide-ranging interview, Blatter, who will be replaced as head of world football’s governing body at an election on 26 February 2016, also said:
Russia will “never” lose the 2018 World Cup
England are “bad losers” over perceived media criticism of the 2018 and 2022 Word Cup bidding process
Most national football associations “don’t like” Uefa-backed Fifa presidential candidate Gianni Infantino
His own current suspension is a “total nonsense” and the Fifa ethics committee has failed him
Blatter said it was “his dream” for his ban to end in time to conduct the February congress when the election to replace him with one of seven candidates will take place.
He also said he should have stood down after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil but stayed because of concerns that Uefa, European football’s governing body, would become too dominant within Fifa.
“The other confederations were afraid that Uefa would take over everything because they have the money and the players,” said Blatter.
“Uefa has an anti-Fifa virus.”
Blatter on ‘jealous’ Platini
Uefa president Platini, who is Fifa’s suspended vice-president, was the target for most of Blatter’s criticism, with the Frenchman accused of being motivated by “envy and jealousy”.
Both are currently suspended while Fifa investigates a Â£1.35m payment made to Platini in 2011, which the pair say was for work as Blatter’s adviser.
The payment was made months before Platini decided not to challenge Blatter in the 2011 Fifa presidential election.
“At the beginning it was only a personal attack – it was Platini against me,” said Blatter.
“He started it, but then it became politics and when it is in politics, it is not any longer Platini against me.
“It is then those who have lost the World Cup – England against Russia. They lost the World Cup and the USA lost the World Cup against Qatar.
“Platini wanted to be Fifa president but he did not have the courage to go as the president and now we are in such a situation in football.”
Platini fights back
In an interview with the Telegraph published later on Wednesday, Platini said he would press on with his bid to replace Blatter as Fifa president in February’s election.
Platini said the Â£1.35m payment “represents the equivalent of four years’ salary arrears that Fifa owed me when I was the president’s special adviser. The president himself offered me a contract and a salary that I accepted”.
He added: “So to be clear: was there work provided? Yes. Is an oral contract legal in Switzerland? Yes. Did I have the right to reclaim my money even nine years later? Yes. Did I produce a proper invoice as Fifa required? Yes. Was the money declared to the taxman? Yes.”
Platini said his disagreement with Blatter stemmed from rivalries between the two organisations they ran, adding: “Fifa and Uefa are antagonistic in an organic sense.
“With Sepp Blatter our relationship became still more strained when in 2015, going against the promise he made in 2011, he wanted to put himself forward for re-election.”
Platini accused Fifa’s ethics inspectors of failing to investigate the case before banning him. He said he would take the matter to the highest court to clear his name.
Earlier, a spokesman for Fifa’s ethics committee investigatory chamber told BBC Sport it was “reading with interest” Blatter’s comments but declined to comment further. It did not comment on Platini’s later remarks.
Meanwhile, the former head of Brazilian football, Jose Maria Marin, 83, has agreed to be extradited from Switzerland to the US to face corruption charges, Swiss authorities say.
He was among seven Fifa officials arrested at a Zurich hotel in May after they were indicted by the US on corruption charges. – BBC Sport