FIFA to go ahead with World Cup votes

FIFA will go ahead with the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding votes on Dec. 2, despite the continuing probe into alleged bribery and collusion.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter said Friday the vote will proceed ahead as scheduled, but acknowledged that it may have been a mistake to combine the two World Cups into one bidding process.

"I am not convinced now that it was the right decision," Blatter said.

FIFA hoped to improve its financial strategy if sponsors and media rights holders bought a two-tournament package, but the tactic appears to have created more opportunities for corruption.

FIFA’s executive committee will select the hosts for both tournaments by secret ballot in Zurich.

"There was never a question of changing anything in the procedure," Blatter said at a news conference after a two-day executive committee meeting.

Two executive committee members, Nigeria’s Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti, are currently suspended after being accused of offering to sell their votes.

FIFA’s ethics committee is to rule on both cases on Nov. 17. The panel also is investigating Spain-Portugal and Qatar for alleged vote-trading.

Vying for the 2018 World Cup are England, Russia, Spain-Portugal and Belgium-Holland.

The 2022 candidates are Qatar, the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea.

Delaying the vote could have disrupted bidders’ plans to bring politicians and football greats for the final presentation to FIFA’s ruling panel on Dec. 1-2 – the climax of more than two years of campaigning and lobbying which has already cost millions of dollars.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and current Prime Ministers Vladimir Putin of Russia, Britain’s David Cameron and Julia Gillard of Australia are all expected in Zurich.

A delay would also have created problems for the Asian Football Confederation.

Asia has a Jan. 6 congress in Doha, Qatar, where three of its four FIFA executive seats are up for election. One is certain to change because 72-year-old Junji Ogura of Japan has passed the AFC age limit.

Temarii’s bid for re-election as Oceania president is scheduled for January, and Adamu would have to defend his FIFA seat at the African football congress in February.

Both Temarii and Adamu could yet be barred from World Cup voting after undercover reporters from The Sunday Times secretly filmed them asking for money for football projects.

The newspaper later released video footage of former FIFA general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen saying Spain-Portugal and Qatar have struck a deal giving each seven votes.

The Iberian neighbors deny the claim, and Qatar officials have not confirmed they are being investigated.

The ethics panel will publish its findings after a three-day meeting next month.

On that same day, several countries connected to bids and voters face each other in international friendlies with opportunities for last-minute lobbying. Qatar will host a Brazil-Argentina game in Doha, Australia plays Egypt in Cairo and Russia faces Belgium in Voronezh. Portugal also plays Spain in Lisbon.

FIFA’s executive committee agreed Friday on rules for the vote. The winner needs an absolute majority, with candidates who poll the fewest votes in each round eliminated until a result emerges.

Voting at FIFA headquarters will be monitored by a Swiss lawyer and consultants KPMG. Results will be sealed and taken to a conference center in downtown Zurich for the announcement ceremony.