Boycotts never work, claims Blatter as focus switches to Russia 2018

Boycotts never work, claims Blatter as focus switches to Russia 2018
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Published March 21st, 2015 - 18:21 GMT via

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2018 Russia World Cup logo
2018 Russia World Cup logo

With two World Cups on the horizon, one in an invading power and the other on a tiny, non-democratic spit of sand at the wrong time of year, Fifa president Sepp Blatter yesterday reminded the world, should it need reminding, that his organisation can do what it likes.

Blatter defended the decisions to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, and to switch it to November and December, which Fifa's executive committee confirmed in a meeting at its Zurich headquarters on Thursday.

"This was a decision taken by an executive committee, and they had every right to do it," he said. "It is said [in Fifa's documents] that in principle the World Cup shall be played in June/July. It said in the same document, that has been signed by the executive committee, that the executive committee can move it."

Blatter twice sidestepped requests that Fifa should apologise to the rest of the football world for the fact that the tournament, the bidding process for which demanded it take place in summer, has now been moved at vast disruption to more than 50 leagues around the world, and after five years of deliberations. Asked if he would say sorry, he replied he would "ask the executive committee".

In the face of calls for a boycott of the Russia World Cup in 2018, most recently from the Ukraine president, Petro Poroshenko, Blatter was defiant. "The World Cup will take place in Russia in 2018 for sure," he said. "Boycott of a World Cup, or of any sporting event, has never brought any solution to anybody.

"In my opinion, the World Cup in Russia will be able to stabilise the region. I am sure that football is stronger than any other movement.

"When I am looking at the geo-political map today - Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, in all these countries where there are belligerent activities, football is played. Men's football. Women's football."

The Labour MP Peter Hain, who was heavily involved in the sporting boycott of apartheid South Africa, dismissed Blatter's claim. "That is simply plain nonsense," Mr Hain told The Independent.

"The boycotts of all-white national South African teams - football, rugby, cricket, the Olympics, athletics - achieved a great deal, as Nelson Mandela said as he was released from prison."

Qatar's poor human rights record and highly publicised mistreatment of immigrant workers, particularly in construction, have also led to calls for boycotts of that tournament, including from members of the European Parliament.

"A European Parliament committee is asking for the boycott of the World Cup," added Blatter. "First, three or four months ago it was boycott the World Cup in Qatar, now they are asking to boycott the World Cup in Russia. This is direct interference.

"We are open to the laws of the countries in which we operate, but we are autonomous in our organisation of our competitions.

"Political authorities should not intervene in the autonomy of sport. The message is: leave sports alone."

Fifa also revealed the fact that the decision for the right to host the 2026 World Cup would be taken in 2017. The only previous time a decision has been taken so far in advance was with the 2010 decision to award the 2018 and 2022 tournaments simultaneously, a process that has been dogged for the past seven years by allegations of corruption.

It means the decision will almost certainly be made with Blatter still president, assuming he wins the 29 May election, for which he is the overwhelming favourite.

The United States are strong favourites to win the 2026 vote. The US broadcaster Fox has already been placated over the decision to move the 2022 tournament to the winter, which will clash with the American football season, having been awarded the broadcast rights to the 2026 tournaments without a public tender taking place.

Already the 2026 World Cup final is being talked of as taking place in Philadelphia on 4 July, the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

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