THE LATEST: Europe, US are likely bidders for 2026 World Cup
ZURICH (AP) — The latest developments concerning FIFA:
2:15 p.m. (1215 GMT; 8:15 a.m. EDT)ok
FIFA will let Europe bid for the 2026 World Cup despite comments by FIFA chief Sepp Blatter that it would be too soon after Russia hosts the 2018 tournament.
Instead, FIFA’s executive committee on Saturday kept an existing rule blocking continents from hosting back-to-back World Cups — so Asia would be excluded in 2026, since Qatar is hosting the 2022 World Cup.
The European soccer body UEFA is locked in a power struggle with world soccer regulator FIFA after most European nations backed Blatter’s opponent in the presidential race that Blatter won Friday. UEFA members are meeting next Friday to agree on ways to oppose Blatter’s FIFA.
The CONCACAF region — including potential bidders the U.S., Canada and Mexico — believes it deserves to host the 2026 tournament, since it has not had a World Cup since 1994 in the United States.
1:35 p.m. (1135 GMT; 7:35 a.m. EDT)
Newly re-elected FIFA President Sepp Blatter was typically defiant in his first news conference since an American investigation into corruption reportedly uncovered $150 million in bribes.
“Arrested for what? Next question,” Blatter dismissed curtly, when asked if he feared where the U.S. federal case was heading.
Was he the “high-ranking FIFA official” mentioned in the U.S. indictment who wired $10 million for apparent bribes to corrupt CONCACAF officials so they would vote for South Africa as the 2010 World Cup host?
“Definitely that is not me,” Blatter said. “I have no $10 million.”
Blatter, 79, has largely avoided engaging with media this year as he sought re-election. After winning a closer vote than he would have liked Friday for a fifth four-year term, he came out fighting Saturday.
“I have especially no concerns about my person,” he said about an investigation that U.S. federal agencies said is just starting.
The U.S. indictment Wednesday detailed bribery and racketeering over a 24-year period linked to awarding television rights in North and South America. Seven FIFA officials are in a Zurich jail, with U.S. officials eager to extradite them.
12:30 p.m. (1030 GMT; 6:30 a.m. EDT)
FIFA is keeping the continental quotas of World Cup qualifying places for two more tournaments — those in 2018 in Russia and in 2022 in Qatar.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter says the executive committee declined to make any changes at a meeting Saturday in Zurich. Blatter had earlier encouraged other regions to seek more places, likely at Europe’s expense.
The decision means European soccer body UEFA keeps its 13 qualifying slots, plus host Russia, at the 32-team tournament in 2018. Europe will have 13 teams at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Besides those places, Africa has five guaranteed spots, Asia and South America have four each, and there are three spots for the CONCACAF region of North and Central America and the Caribbean. Two more places are decided in playoffs involving teams from Asia, CONCACAF, Oceania and South America.
12:05 p.m. (1005 GMT; 6:05 a.m. EDT)
In heavyweight boxing terms, you can’t get bigger than FIFA vs. UEFA.
The battle between the world soccer body and the European soccer regulator resumes Saturday when newly re-elected FIFA President Sepp Blatter chairs a meeting of his 27-member executive committee. The panel must decide how to allocate qualifying slots for the 2018 World Cup.
Europe’s 13 places — 14 including host Russia — should be safe. For now.
But earlier in the day, Blatter made it clear there may be consequences for European leaders who tried to oust him.
“I forgive everyone but I don’t forget,” Blatter told Swiss television channel RTS. “We cannot live without UEFA and UEFA cannot live without us.”
UEFA President Michel Platini led the opposition to Blatter in Friday’s vote and has suggested that European nations could consider boycotting FIFA — including the World Cup.
11:35 a.m. (0935 GMT; 5:35 a.m. EDT)
David Gill, the vice chairman of England’s Football Association, has confirmed he won’t take a seat on FIFA’s executive committee as long as Sepp Blatter is FIFA president.
Gill has replaced Jim Boyce in the FIFA vice presidential role guaranteed to Britain. Still, he says he will reject his seat on FIFA’s powerful executive committee — the 27-body governing panel that has been the focus of many corruption allegations over the years.
Gill says Saturday “I do recognize that Mr. Blatter has been democratically elected and wish FIFA every success in tackling the many troubling issues it faces. However, my professional reputation is critical to me. And I simply do not see how there will be change for the good of world football while Mr. Blatter remains.”
Blatter won re-election Friday after beating challenger Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan. England had been among the many European nations backing Prince Ali.
11:15 a.m. (0915 GMT, 5:15 a.m. EDT)
Sepp Blatter has little use for U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and an American federal investigation into international soccer corruption that she says has uncovered $150 million in bribes.
In a defiant interview with a Swiss RTS on Saturday, the president of world soccer body FIFA says “there is something that smells” about the timing of dawn raids to arrest top FIFA soccer officials in Zurich two days before his re-election on Friday. The arrests took place under a U.S. warrant.
Two FIFA vice presidents and a recently elected FIFA executive committee member are among seven men detained in Zurich and accused of racketeering, money laundering and fraud in connection with tournament television rights.
“I was shocked by what she said,” Blatter told RTS. “As a president I would never make a statement about another organization without knowing.”
Blatter also claimed that American animosity to him stemmed from U.S. backing for his defeated opponent, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, and from the U.S. losing out to Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup.
10:55 a.m. (0855 GMT, 4:55 a.m. EDT)
The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin, host of the 2018 World Cup, has sent a telegram to Sepp Blatter congratulating him on winning a fifth term at the helm of FIFA.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced the telegram on Saturday after Blatter, 79, was re-elected Friday to lead the world soccer body despite strong opposition to his tenure from other nations in Europe.
The Kremlin said Putin “expressed confidence that experience, professionalism and high authority will help Blatter and further promote the expansion of the geography and popularity of football in the whole world. Putin emphasized that Russia is interested in and ready for collaboration with FIFA in general and in the preparations” for the 2018 World Cup.
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