FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke has challenged those who make allegations of corruption around the bidding process for World Cups to provide proof.
France Football magazine dedicated an entire issue in late January to what it claimed were suspicious dealings surrounding the attribution of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. Valcke, 52, claimed that FIFA would always take action in corruption cases, but only if such allegations were backed up by more than hearsay and supposition.
"For the whole process of the attribution of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, FIFA put in place a system of checks to ensure the candidates responded in a manner that was the most transparent possible," he told Tuesday's L'Equipe. "We've never received the least shred of proof nor suspicion of corruption for 2018 or 2022. If there is corruption, proof is needed. Those who are talking about it have to provide proof. If that's the case the ethics commission will intervene."
Valcke added the geo-political dimension of the bidding process and the subsequent lobbying by powerful figures outside of football before the vote of FIFA members in Switzerland in December 2010 meant any wrongdoing could not have been covered up.
"It was a mini-G20 we had in Zurich. There was Bill Clinton, the British, Belgian, Dutch and Spanish prime ministers. How can you imagine we would take the risk that, if there were the slightest piece of information about corruption, we would not disclose it?," he added.
"If we knew [about corruption], at FIFA, whether it be the president, the general secretary or any other person, if there was something, do you think we would have stayed quiet about it?"
A question which does remain unanswered is just when the 2022 World Cup will take place. Though organisers have plans to cool entire venues with air-conditioning to cope with summer temperatures which soar to above 40°C, many influential figures within football are pressing for the tournament's traditional summer time-slot to be re-thought.
Valcke acknowledged a powerful groundswell of opinion within FIFA itself in favour of staging the 2022 World Cup in winter, but added that only the Qatari authorities could set the ball in motion.
"If I listen to members of the executive committee, among them Michel Platini, and other voices, there's a tendency towards having the World Cup in winter rather than summer," he said. "It's a decision FIFA's executive committee will have to take at the given time, but it has to be Qatar who asks for it. For the moment, Qatar has made no such demand."
Valcke did confirm, however, that there was no question of the tournament being taken away from Qatar with contingencies for a change in the timetabling of the World Cup written into the bidding process, saying: "The regulations in the bidding process are such that FIFA can change the period when the World Cup is held.
"We wouldn't talk about that idea if we had the least doubt, the least legal risk. In legal terms, we could look at a request from Qatar to move the World Cup from summer 2022 to winter 2022, a period of the year when the temperatures are more reasonable."