Blatter stands by summer slot for 2022 World Cup

GRAHAM DUNBAR AP Sports Writer Published:

ZURICH (AP) -- FIFA President Sepp Blatter insisted on Thursday that his governing body has not lost control of the debate about Qatar hosting the World Cup.

Though speculation has grown that the tournament could be moved from its planned June-July 2022 slot to the cooler winter months, Blatter shrugged off the idea that FIFA was being undermined.

"We are not losing control of the World Cup, being the World Cup of 2014, 2018, 2022 or the past World Cups," Blatter told reporters.

Blatter said that Qatari organizers would have to ask to change their hosting plan from the hottest months, despite recent hints by FIFA's top official that its ruling board -- which chose the tiny desert state -- could intervene on medical advice.

Commenting on an issue that has stirred controversy long after a vote in December 2010, Blatter told reporters: "It has not been put into question by FIFA's executive committee, therefore it still stands.

"Then all of a sudden people have realized that when playing in summer it will be very difficult because it is very hot."

Blatter declined to be drawn on speculated legal challenges by rival bidders, including the United States, if Qatar's plans changed.

"I am not a prophet. I have not used the words that have been reproduced somewhere," he said.

The subject of Qatar's World Cup drew questions, despite not featuring on the 25-member executive committee's two-day agenda.

Meanwhile, committee members -- missing Sri Lankan official Vernon Manilal Fernando, who is provisionally suspended during an ethics probe -- failed to reach agreement on imposing age- and term-limits on FIFA positions, including the presidency.

On this key element of wide-ranging governance and anti-corruption reforms, the board compromised by asking FIFA's congress of 209 football countries to decide the issue on May 31 in Mauritius.

There, FIFA nations will also be asked to create two more ruling committee places for women, bringing the quota to three on a 27-member board. Its first female member is due to be elected at the FIFA Congress in May.

A slate of FIFA rule changes agreed Thursday omitted several other proposals described as "fundamental" by Swiss law professor Mark Pieth, who was appointed by Blatter to lead an expert group of advisers on the reforms.

"He (Pieth) cannot say he is FIFA. He is not, he is just a counselor," countered FIFA board member Theo Zwanziger, a German lawyer, after presenting the reform slate. "Since when can a counselor implement 100 percent of what he wants?"

Pieth's group issued a statement urging FIFA to take control of integrity checks on senior officials from the six continental confederations, and "ensure the presence of independent observers in the FIFA ExCo meetings."

Blatter ordered the two-year reforms program after cash-for-votes scandals and other allegations of wrongdoing clouded his re-election in 2011. They also overshadowed the contests which saw Russia and Qatar chosen to host the World Cup in 2018 and 2022, respectively.

Speculation about 2022 -- and if Qatar should face a re-run vote -- has flared regularly since.

"All the other rumors or information or tendencies to play when and where, these are not relevant for FIFA's executive committee stand on the decision," Blatter said.

The committee was meanwhile told to expect decisions by April 15 in a separate ethics investigation of a decade-old World Cup kickbacks case which could implicate panel members Nicolas Leoz and Issa Hayatou.

In other decisions, FIFA made it clear that world football wants British football to lose its guaranteed seat on its ruling executive committee as a vice president.

FIFA said in a statement that "the privilege of the four British associations to elect a vice president shall be removed."

Instead the seat on the executive committee will go to European football's governing body UEFA.

UEFA has indicated that it would support giving that position still to a member from England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

FIFA also reported profits of $89 million for 2012 and has reserves of $1.378 billion. It had revenues of $1.166 billion last year and spending of $1.077 billion.

The football body pays no tax on commercial income from the World Cup because of its status as a not-for-profit association in Swiss law.

Blatter's salary and benefits were not detailed. He was among FIFA leaders and executives -- defined as "key management personnel" -- who shared payments totaling $33.5 million.

The other decisions included FIFA reappointing Costa Rica as host of the Under-17 Women's World Cup next year after receiving new guarantees from public authorities there.