Blatter: No comment on Qatar 2022 payment claims

GRAHAM DUNBAR AP Sports Writer Published:

ZURICH (AP) -- FIFA President Sepp Blatter refused to comment on allegations linking Qatar's winning World Cup bid to payments received by voters.

Blatter said at a news conference on Friday "I have not even the right" to discuss claims published this week by the Daily Telegraph.

The British newspaper said it had evidence that a Qatari company controlled by former FIFA board member Mohamed bin Hammam paid almost $2 million to former FIFA vice president Jack Warner's family after the December 2010 vote.

Blatter referred questions to a statement on behalf of its ethics investigation panel, which was "aware of the material identified in the published article."

The claims were aired as Blatter and other FIFA executive committee members were being interviewed in Zurich as part of an investigation by ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests, won by Russia and Qatar.

Pressed further on the subject, Blatter insisted he will not comment "until they have finished their work."

Garcia is expected to deliver a report this year to the judging panel of FIFA's ethics court.

"As with any allegations of misconduct by football officials the ethics committee will take whatever action it feels is appropriate," the statement on behalf of Garcia said.

Still, he has limited jurisdiction at best. Bin Hammam is already banned from football for life, and Warner resigned in June 2011 to avoid a previous FIFA investigation into a cash-for-votes scandal linked to the Qatari's failed presidential bid.

As future World Cup hosts continue to trouble FIFA, Blatter said he would make another visit to Qatar before this year's tournament starts in Brazil in June to press for progress in the gas-rich emirate's treatment of migrant laborers.

Blatter's board colleague, Theo Zwanziger, said FIFA has asked Qatari authorities for "honest reports" on the situation.

Labor unions and rights groups have campaigned to highlight unsafe conditions, unpaid salaries and contracts tying workers to their employer.

Blatter dismissed suggestions that aggressive actions by 2018 World Cup host Russia toward neighboring Ukraine in the breakaway Crimea region could affect the tournament.

"The World Cup has been given and voted to Russia and we are going forward with our work," said Blatter, who counts Russia's sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, among his board colleagues.

FIFA and UEFA have also endorsed an agreement that Crimea region clubs Tavriya Simferopol and FC Sevastopol should complete the season in the Ukraine Premier League. Both clubs expressed interest in switching to the Russian league next season.

Issues affecting FIFA's next three major tournament hosts have not damaged the governing body's finances.

Buoyed by record income of $1.386 billion last year, FIFA reported that its reserves grew to $1.432 billion after making a $72 million profit.

FIFA's financial results typically peak in a World Cup year, which will be reported next March, and are set to grow with more valuable TV rights and sponsorship deals starting next year.

"We will make more money for Russia and we will make more money for Qatar," secretary general Jerome Valcke said. "And if it is as it is, we will make more money for the World Cup '26."

In other decisions:

-- There was no agreement on a proposal for age and term limits in FIFA office. An option for three four-year terms was considered. The issue will go to the FIFA Congress on June 11 in Sao Paulo.

-- The congress will be asked to extend mandates through 2015 for two co-opted women board members: Moya Dodd of Australia and Sonia Bien-Aime of Turks and Caicos Islands.

-- Rabat and Marrakech were confirmed as host cities for the Club World Cup in Morocco in December, subject to Rabat stadium works being completed before September.