- Associated Press - Friday, October 29, 2010

ZURICH (AP) - FIFA will go ahead with voting on bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups despite its probe into alleged bribery and collusion.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter said Friday that the Dec. 2 balloting will proceed 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 24-member 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.

England, Russia, Spain-Portugal and Belgium-Holland are vying for the 2018 World Cup, while Qatar, the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea are competing to host the tournament in 2022.

Delaying the vote could have disrupted bidders’ plans to bring politicians and soccer greats before FIFA’s ruling panel for the final presentation _ the climax of more than two years of campaigning and lobbying that have already cost millions of dollars.

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

A delay also would 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 soccer 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 soccer projects.

The newspaper later released video 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 is due to publish its findings Nov. 17.

That is also the day when several countries connected to bids play each other in international exhibitions that provide 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, which would be 13 votes if all 24 members are allowed to vote after the ethics panel issues its ruling. The candidates with the fewest votes in each round will be 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.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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