Blatter Says Plot ‘to Destroy’ FIFA Amid Qatar Claims

FIFA President Sepp Blatter told officials today there was a plot “to destroy” soccer’s ruling body following accusations in a U.K. newspaper that the process to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was tainted by bribery.

“They want to destroy, not the game, but they want to destroy the institution,” Blatter told Asian soccer officials without identifying an actual target.

FIFA sponsors including Sony Corp., Adidas AG and Coca-Cola Co. expressed concern yesterday about the award in 2010 of the World Cup to Qatar after the U.K.’s Sunday Times said a former FIFA board member, Qatari billionaire Mohamed Bin Hammam, bribed officials mainly in Africa and Asia to support his country’s bid. Bin Hammam, who was banned for life from the sport in 2012 following claims of wrongdoing while he headed the Asian soccer federation, denies the claims.

Qatar, a desert state smaller than Connecticut without any historic soccer culture, said it acted properly throughout its 22-month bid. Michael Garcia, a former U.S. federal prosecutor, today completed an investigation into alleged wrongdoing surrounding the award of the World Cup in 2022 and 2018, which went to Russia.

Sport’s highest tribunal, the Lausanne, Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, has also ruled it was “more likely than not” that Bin Hammam bribed Caribbean officials when he challenged Blatter for FIFA’s presidency in 2011.

Blatter spoke today at meetings of African and Asian soccer executives in Sao Paulo ahead of FIFA’s annual meeting tomorrow.

‘Discrimination, Racism’

“Once again there is a sort of storm against FIFA relating to the Qatar World Cup,” Blatter told African officials. “Sadly, there’s a great deal of discrimination and racism, and this hurts me.”

The Confederation of African Football in a statement today denounced “repeated, deliberately hateful, defamatory and degrading attacks by some media, notably British,” and said it may sue the authors.

Herzogenaurach, Germany-based Adidas, a FIFA sponsor since 1970, yesterday said “the negative tenor of the public debate around FIFA at the moment is neither good for football nor for FIFA and its partners.”

Sony said it expects FIFA “to adhere to its principles,” while Coca-Cola spokeswoman Alison Brubaker said “we are confident that FIFA is taking these allegations very seriously and is investigating them thoroughly.”

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