FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said politics directly influenced the vote that led to Qatar winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup, weeks after he conceded it was “a mistake” to award the Gulf state the showpiece tournament.
"Clearly, yes. There was direct political influence," the head of football's world governing body told Germany's Die Zeit.
"European heads of government recommended a vote for Qatar to their (FIFA executive committee) members who were entitled to vote because they had large economic interests connected with this country."
The comments are likely to further inflame controversy over the 2022 World Cup, which has been marred by allegations of corruption and arguments over changing it to winter to avoid the Qatari summer heat since the December 2010 vote.
A FIFA ethics committee is investigating the corruption allegations, including those related to Russia winning the 2018 World Cup, which was decided at the same time.
It already has been revealed that the president of European football body UEFA, Michel Platini, had dinner at the Elysee Palace with then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy and the then-Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani days before the FIFA vote.
Platini later admitted to France Football he went on to vote for Qatar but denied making an agreement with the leaders.
Earlier this month, Blatter said it had been a mistake to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, where temperatures rise to 50 degrees during June-July, when the tournament is traditionally held.
Despite Qatar promising to spend billions of dollars on state-of-the-art air conditioned stadiums, concerns have led to Blatter supporting a move to winter. The FIFA executive committee is expected to vote on a switch at its meeting in early October.
The move could trigger legal action from countries that lost to Qatar, professional leagues, broadcaster Fox and sponsors.
Australian Football Federation chairman Frank Lowy said earlier this week he would seek compensation from FIFA for the $43m spent on his country’s failed bid for the 2022 World Cup.
The US, Japan and South Korea were the other losing contenders.
But in the German interview Blatter said the bidding rules did not stipulate a June-July tournament.
"In our invitation of tenders it says, ‘in principle June, July’. We have to be flexible on timing otherwise the countries south of the equator will never come into question as venues for a World Cup," he said.