Blatter on goal-line technology, Russia and Qatar, and allegations of corruption

In an exclusive interview with CNN World Sport’s Pedro Pinto, FIFA President Sepp Blatter talks about goal-line technology, Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 and about FIFA’s voting reform and allegations of corruption.

On Goal-line technology

PEDRO PINTO

We did a poll online for our CNN.com users and we had many votes, and 92 per cent of them want to see goal-line technology. I know the international board is looking at it right now – are you confident that they are going to say “Yes. Let’s do it”?

SEPP BLATTER

Well the International Board is a very conservative organisation, but the International Board had said at the time it was two years ago or three years ago when we put the goal-line technology on ice – when there is a system that is accurate and immediate in the information then we are not against it. So now, here in Zurich, we have tested 17 different systems and now three or four or five of them will go to the Board and the Board will then have the opportunity, first the technical committee will have a look on that and then there will be a recommendation, but if there is one of these systems that is accurate and immediate, and also not too complicated, then I think goal-line technology has a good chance to be accepted.

PEDRO PINTO

But what if the Board comes back and says, “No, we don’t want it”? The people want it Mr Blatter!

SEPP BLATTER

I know. I know. If you make a gallup everywhere in the world with the fans then it will be a majority “yes”, but if you go in the football family, with the football players, with referees especially and let’s also say with the dignitaries then they are against because they are conservative.

PEDRO PINTO

But Howard Webb, who was the referee for the FIFA World Cup Final and the Champions League, said he would endorse it.

SEPP BLATTER

(long pause) My position is that if they work then we will do it. You know there are other positions elsewhere, especially in Europe. The President of Europe Michel Platini is totally against any technical device because he’s afraid that when we are in the goal-line technology we could go to the 18-yard line and we can go to the offside position or whatever, but for the time being we are talking about only goal-line technology. That was also the gallup you have made – the poll yes? So let’s look forward positively. The first week of March in Cardiff.

PEDRO PINTO

So if the Board comes back and says “No” can you say “Gentlemen. We need it”?

SEPP BLATTER

But if it works the board will say “Yes.”

PEDRO PINTO

Even if they’re conservative?

SEPP BLATTER

Even if they’re conservative.

Continue to PAGE TWO for Blatter’s thoughts on Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022…

On Russia 2018 & Qatar 2022

PEDRO PINTO

On an online poll at cnn.com, 79% of voters thought the middle eastern country was not the right choice to host that tournament. a statistic I shared with Mr. Blatter…

SEPP BLATTER

Then, you see, they have difficulties understanding what is behind this strategic decision to go eastwards with the ’18 to Russia and the ’22 to the Arab world. And naturally when you are looking at the country of Qatar, which is a very small country, and when the basic conditions were, and still are, to play in June/July then it may look a bit questionable to go there.

PEDRO PINTO

The winter World Cup – you’ve talked about it. What are the chances that it is going to be held at that time of year? Right now, percentage-wise, what would you say?

SEPP BLATTER

First of all it must come from the organising committee now in Qatar, to ask FIFA Executive Committee to make some amendments in the basic documents. And this is possible because in the basic documents of the bid it is said that the FIFA Executive Committee can at any time make some amendments to the basic conditions. But if you ask me the percentage to play in winter it is definitely over fifty per cent. It means this is more than just a probability to play in winter time because also for the spectacle, for the football and to protect footballers and also spectators, finally.

PEDRO PINTO

But do you think it’s fair after the votes took place to say, “We can have it in the winter”? A lot of people are saying, “Well they bid for a summer World Cup now they’re going to have it in winter. That’s not fair”.

SEPP BLATTER

You can say it’s not fair, but the final decision has not yet been taken. But it would be unfair to the players to play in summer when there is a possibility to play in winter.

PEDRO PINTO

But you know this would create havoc with the European schedule, if not the worldwide schedule, with the leagues. Arsene Wenger said it would be a bad move were it to happen. How can you justify to all those leagues and to all the people involved, not only from a sporting perspective but from a business perspective, with the television contracts and everything that’s going on, how tough will that be to change and have a World Cup in the middle of the season?

SEPP BLATTER

Well, in the middle of the season in Europe, and not even in all the countries in Europe. Let’s say in the middle of the season in the big leagues

PEDRO PINTO

But have a lot of big money though.

SEPP BLATTER

But all these big leagues, if you look now, some of them they now have a rest, a winter rest. Where there is a will you can change the international calendar for that year. This is a possibility because now you have 11 years to go.

PEDRO PINTO

Talking about Qatar a little bit more, you know about all of this, there has been criticism concerning how freedom is an issue there; freedom of press, the fact that homosexuality is illegal there. Don’t you think that having a tournament in a country with all these restrictions this is alienating many people, in specific homosexuals who will be wary, scared of going there?

SEPP BLATTER

The principles of human rights would not be respected this could be a problem. We will push Qatar to make sure the World cup will be played in such conditions that other World Cups have been played and that human rights are respected.

PEDRO PINTO

Questions have come in about the technical reports that are released before the vote and how much importance they have because Russia and Qatar didn’t do particularly well in those assessments yet they both won. So, what is the importance of those technical reports and assessments, and are they going to be continued to be used?

SEPP BLATTER

Well, since I am in FIFA we have made the technical reports and I have to say that never the technical reports have identified the right winner.

PEDRO PINTO

So are they going to be scrapped in the future?

SEPP BLATTER

No, no. we are going to do it because we want to show also to the world that we have done our job, but finally you have a college of voters and they do finally, they vote more with their heart than they vote with their head.

PEDRO PINTO

So you think that the decision, for example, for Russia and Qatar was a decision more with the heart than with the head.

SEPP BLATTER

Yeah, but also I have to say that Russia have shown a very compact organisation that the World Cup, the benefit of the World Cup, is already there in the country because the country will be developed. in the other countries everything is already there.

Continue to PAGE THREE for Blatter’s thoughts on allegations of corruption…

On FIFA Voting Reform / allegations of corruption

PEDRO PINTO

89%, again nine out of every ten people who voted, think that the World Cup voting system should be reformed after what happened. Do you think it will be reformed?

SEPP BLATTER

Then this 90% of people, some of them they should give us a proposal of how to do it better. Because we have handed into to congress and then the congress has decided that when it goes into congress that it is a political decision, so it has to go to the Executive Committee. they do it by secret ballot. It is controlled by public notary, it’s in transparency according to Swiss law.

PEDRO PINTO

But many people believe, I think about the reform, that it is just too much power for twenty-two or twenty-four men to have, that it should be open, perhaps, to the member associations

SEPP BLATTER

But it was the same congress that a few years ago, or many years ago, have decided we don’t want to do it because it is too much responsibility, too high a responsibility for us.

PEDRO PINTO

I think a lot of people say this as well, because you’ll remember the scandal by the IOC after the Salt Lake City Games and how they reformed their whole bidding process.

SEPP BLATTER

The IOC first of all reacted only after the vote. Only after the vote it was then evident that something had happened and then the IOC intervened. So with us we did it before the vote, before the vote, and rapidly;our Ethics Committee dealt with this matter far faster than any court could have done it.

PEDRO PINTO

You said you were happy with the work done by the Ethics Committee, not everyone was including someone from the Committee, Guenter Hirsch, who resigned, and this is what he said, and I quote, “those responsible in Fifa have no real interest in playing an active role in the resolution, pursuance and prevention of violations of FIFA’s Ethics code.” How do you react to that?

SEPP BLATTER

I am very disappointed by his declaration. He was there at the beginning of the Ethics Committee, he was not attending other meetings of the Ethic Committee, he was not making any comments on the ethic code, he was asked to make comments in writing, he has not participated in the meetings we have had in connection with the 2010 voting process, so how such high level legalist can make such declaration

PEDRO PINTO

Do you think everything leading up to the vote, and I can see that it upsets you; do you think it had a negative impact on the image of FIFA?

SEPP BLATTER

Sure, because then the international media they were saying there is corruption in FIFA. We have three hundred million active participants in the FIFA. Three hundred million! Football players, coaches, referees, members; And if out of them in the process there are two, three or four and they are alleged, alleged corruption activities, then you cannot say that everything is corrupt in FIFA; it’s not possible.

PEDRO PINTO

You have decided now to set up an Anti-corruption Committee?

SEPP BLATTER

No. Not at all, not at all. It’s not an Anti-corruption Committee. The Anti-Corruption Committee – we have it. This is the Ethic Committee – this is the anti-corruption committee. No, what I want to put together is a sort of compliance group. People from outside of FIFA, but being involved in politics, in culture, in economy, whatever, also in sport and they will be like to chaperone in a group of personalities to say we will give some credibility to this organization.

PEDRO PINTO

And talking about credibility I have to bring up another criticism, which I’m sure hurts you as well, from Franz Beckenbauer who said he was going to leave the Executive Committee he had less confidence in FIFA and Uli Hoeness, the President of Bayern, said FIFA had lost credibility after the voting process and that powerful associations need to clean up. When you hear things like that how do you react to it?

SEPP BLATTER

I spoke with Franz Beckenbauer. Franz Beckenbauer was not so happy because we have published the results of the voting procedure and all that. I think also he has now resigned, not because of that because he resigned before and he said, “No, no. I have nothing against FIFA. Uli Hoeness I think you cannot take this seriously.

PEDRO PINTO

I think a lot of people think a lot of the members of the Executive Committee have been there a long time, they have made too many friends, it’s too political.

SEPP BLATTER

The problem is not that. The problem is the government of FIFA, which is the Executive Committee, is not elected by the same entity that the President of FIFA is elected – that’s a problem.

PEDRO PINTO

Can you change that?

SEPP BLATTER

I am the only one elected by the congress and all the other members are elected by their confederations and that’s why it is so difficult to manage my ministers, really it is difficult.

Credit to CNN World Sport and Pedro Pinto

 


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