MOSCOW (AP) Sepp Blatter’s decision to step down as FIFA president poses ”no threat” to Russia’s staging of the World Cup in 2018, the host nation’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko said Wednesday.
Blatter announced his intention to quit last month and new elections will be held against the backdrop of U.S. and Swiss investigations into corruption allegations, including some that involve the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Mutko said that any new FIFA president would back Russia’s World Cup, which he called FIFA’s ”pearl.”
”If there’s a new president and he’s elected, then he’ll understand very well that it’s a pearl and you need to look after it,” he said. ”It’s the main project and I’m completely convinced that, whoever comes in … will provide full support.”
He added: ”I see no threat.”
Mutko, who sits on FIFA’s executive committee, said that the organization ”should just restore trust” in football after various scandals.
The date for a new presidential election will be set at an emergency meeting of FIFA’s executive committee on July 20 in Zurich.
Mutko also denied that Russia was breaking FIFA rules on government interference in the running of football associations after President Vladimir Putin signed a law giving the government the authority to restrict the number of foreign players in Russian Premier League football teams.
The move is simply a piece of migration policy and a way to promote young Russian players, Mutko argued.
”I don’t see any alternative,” he said. ”We are required to protect the interests of our citizens. That’s written in the constitution.”
In another sign of growing government influence in Russian football, Mutko is also considering standing for the vacant post of president of the Russian Football Union.
While he has yet to confirm his candidacy, he also already been nominated by two of the RFU’s regional federations, Russian media have reported. Mutko previously headed the RFU between 2005 and 2009, when he stepped down 10 months after being named sports minister.