USA tipped to take over as 2022 World Cup hosts
Published 23:01 01/06/11 By Martin Lipton
The United States look set to be the big winners of FIFA’s week of shame with the 2022 World Cup vote poised to be re-opened.
Sepp Blatter’s confirmation as boss of world football for a further four years last night came only after he was forced to give more concessions over his power than he ever envisaged.
Blatter is now ready to sanction an investigation into the corruption claims that are overshadowing Qatar’s outrageous victory in December’s vote to host the 2022 tournament.
The probe would open the way for the US to be awarded the right to stage the competition next year.
The doomed attempt by Football Association chairman David Bernstein to put Blatter’s coronation as FIFA president for a fourth and final four-year term on hold was easily defeated as 172 of the 208 member nations voted to proceed with the election.
While Blatter was eventually voted in by 186 votes to 17, with five countries not casting a ballot, the head of the world game was on the defensive as he admitted he had been “slapped” by recent events as the stench of corruption clung to every corner of FIFA.
In an at times rambling address to the Congress in Zurich - the “parliament” of world football's governing body - the 75-year-old Blatter promised the decision on future World Cup hosts would be taken by all the national associations, rather than the 24-member executive committee.
Perhaps more crucially, he gave the biggest possible steer so far that the decision on the 2022 tournament is likely to be investigated.
Germany FA chief Theo Zwanziger, a Blatter ally who replaced “Der Kaiser” Franz Beckenbauer on the executive committee, prepared the ground as he declared: “There is a considerable degree of suspicion that one cannot sweep aside. This needs to be examined anew.
“If FIFA behaves the way people expect, that is by clearly taking action against this cancerous tumour of bribery. The task now is to shed light in a determined fashion, punish the guilty and develop mechanisms that prevent something like this from ever happening again.”
And as he outlined the new process for deciding World Cup venues, Blatter said the organisation’s ethics committee would be beefed up and a new committee with more investigative powers created.
He added: “It was everything that went around the vote on December 2 that kicked off the wave of accusations, proposals, allegations and criticism - which are still coming.
“We have an instrument at our disposal that will look and inquire deeply into all the problems and all the criticism and allegations within FIFA. We want to bring together all the necessary evidence and find solutions.
“If it is necessary to find a solution and if we need it we will have an extra-ordinary Congress because we must stop, once and for all, these ugly criticisms, allegations, insinuations, cheating left right and centre.
“Our credibility and the reputation of all of us is at stake. It is too late to say, ‘We will do it tomorrow’. We must do it today and go ahead with all power in this Congress.”
That was the green light for the 2022 vote to be overturned if evidence of alleged Qatari bribes is confirmed. Blatter would then back the USA to take over, as it would allow China to host the 2026 tournament.
Blatter’s speech saw him drawing a series of analogies to his role as the “captain of the ship” that has found itself in “troubled waters, choppy waters”, promising “reforms will be made that are not just touch-ups but radical decisions, the necessary reforms”.
Bernstein came under sustained attack for a series of speakers, including Argentina’s notorious anti-semite Julio Grondona who accused England of “always having something to complain about”.
But while only 15 nations supported England and Scotland in urging the vote be delayed - another 17 abstained - the FA chairman believed his stand had been justified by Blatter’s back-pedalling.
Bernstein said: “We believe the calls we have made for greater transparency and better governance have been worthwhile. The vote clearly shows that we are not alone or isolated in our views in relation to the current situation FIFA finds itself in.
“We are confident the FA has played a significant role as a catalyst for change in the way World Cup hosts will be selected.
“This must be a more open transparent process. Making the Ethics Committee accountable to FIFA Congress is a further important step forward towards an approach of greater transparency and accountability.”