For the first time since England failed in its bid to host the 2018 World Cup, Sepp Blatter met with the England Football Association to discuss a variety of things as part of the beginning of his campaign to be reelected FIFA president. Blatter is being opposed by Mohamed bin Hammam in the upcoming election for the top post in FIFA and in his meeting with the FA, sought to clear the air about some of England's concerns.
The English were furious with the decision to award the 2018 World Cup hosting rights to Russia when they believed they had the best bid. Since the vote, most of the vitriol about the alleged corruption in FIFA that led to awarding Russia the right to host in 2018 and Qatar the right to host the 2022 tournament has been aimed at Blatter. Of course, Blatter didn't do himself any favors when he responded to the England FA's anger by labeling them "bad losers." Now though, Blatter needs the support of the English because Europe is expected to be the key battleground in the June 1 election and as a major football power, England has plenty of influence.
First and foremost, Blatter stated that the awarding of the World Cups to Russia and Qatar was not a personal mission to spread the game to new parts of the world. He made that especially clear to FA chairman David Bernstein, although that does run contradictory to a statement Blatter wrote and published on the FIFA website in December, shortly after the hosting rights were awarded.
"We have made historic decisions in terms of sport and geopolitics. We've sent the World Cup to new territories," Blatter wrote.: The 2018 World Cup will go to eastern Europe and the vast country that is Russia, and the 2022 event will go to Qatar, in the Arab world. "The World Cup will discover new cultures in new regions, and that's something I'm delighted about."
Blatter also reassured Bernstein and FA general secretary Alex Horne that FIFA will not hold votes for multiple World Cups at the same time again, something that was done for the first time when the 2018 and 2022 tournaments were awarded in December. Whether that assurance matters or not is in question. If FIFA returns to the policy they held for every World Cup before 2018 and 2022 and awards the hosting right six to eight years before the tournament, Blatter will not be a part of FIFA when the 2026 event is awarded. He has promised that if he is reelected in June it will be his final term and he will not run again in 2015.
The FA will decide which candidate they will back in a May board meeting and bin Hammam will meet with the FA later this week to discuss his plans for FIFA. During Blatter's meeting, the FA quizzed Blatter on all matters FIFA and plan to do the same with bin Hammam. The FA previously asked Blatter his his reelection manifesto, a request Blatter complied with and it is understood that bin Hammam will comply with as well. Despite the extensive meeting, the FA declined to disclose any details of the meeting, instead releasing a statement on the topics discussed.
"The meeting covered a range of topics including a review of recent decisions taken by the International Football Association Board. FIFA committee issues, the international football calendar, third party ownership, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the process of bidding to host FIFA World Cup tournaments," the FA confirmed. "Mr. Blatter also took the opportunity to update the FA on his candidacy for a further term as FIFA president."