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May 16, 2014

Sepp Blatter admits Qatar 'mistake'

Sepp Blatter admitted FIFA has made a mistake over the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Sepp Blatter appeared to admit to Swiss television channel RTS that FIFA made "a mistake" in awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, although world football's governing body has denied that is the case.

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The decision to give the Gulf state the tournament has been subject to heavy criticism since it was made in December 2010.

Qatar has come under fire over numerous issues, including its system of "slave labour," while earlier this week it announced changes to the "Kafala system."

Although the proposed changes to the system have been called "a missed opportunity" by Amnesty International, Blatter described them as "a significant step in the right direction for sustainable change in the workers' welfare standards in Qatar."

Claims over potential corruption in the World Cup voting process have also been rife, and a report on those claims is due to be released this year, according to Die Welt am Sonntag.

There have also been serious concerns raised over the temperatures in the Gulf state, and it is still not clear when the World Cup will be staged, although FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke has said it will not be played in June or July.

Moving the tournament, however, presents a number of obstacles, including disruption to domestic leagues, a potential clash with the 2022 Winter Olympics and potential objections from TV broadcasters.

Speaking to RTS on Thursday, Blatter said it was "more than probable" that the World Cup would have to be held in the winter.

He was then asked if it was a mistake, and replied: "Yes, of course, but listen..."

The interview asked Blatter to confirm his answer, to which he added: "Well, a mistake ... you know, people make lots of mistakes in life. The technical report on Qatar clearly indicated that it is too hot in summer. But the Executive Committee -- by quite a large majority -- has, all the same, decided that we're going to play in Qatar."

He continued: "I will never say that they [Qatar] bought it, because there was political pressure, from France, from Germany. We can't get involved in political considerations. We know very well that big French companies and big German companies work in Qatar. But they don't just work for the World Cup. The World Cup is just a small thing in what is happening in Qatar today."

He was asked about UEFA president Michel Platini's controversial meeting with former French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Qatari royalty at the Elysee Palace in 2010.

Blatter said: "It didn't shock me as he told me about it immediately afterwards. Out of politeness, and above all transparency, he said: 'I had this meeting.' Anyway, everyone knew about it. I don't really see the Swiss head of state, who changes every year, telling the FIFA president to vote for this or that."

Blatter also made clear his determination to continue as FIFA president having initially stated in 2011 that he would stand down in 2015.

He added: "I have said I want to continue. Of course I have the desire to continue. The path to the throne is not yet open. There are a lot of people who would like to take this position but they realise it is not easy to direct an organisation with 300 million members."

FIFA subsequently issued a statement insisting Blatter had not questioned Qatar as hosts.

It read: "As explained in his answer to the journalist, the president reiterated that the decision to organise the World Cup in summer was an 'error' based on the technical assessment report of the bid, which had highlighted the extremely hot temperatures in summer in Qatar.

"At no stage did he question Qatar as the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup."

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.

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