Former Fifa President Sepp Blatter has accused Michel Platini of changing his vote to back Qatars World Cup bid after being pressured politically by then French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Qatar has repeatedly denied claims it bought votes for its World Cup 2022 bid, with Blatter now stating the decision came about as a result of political pressure, not corruption.
The claims, made by Blatter in an interview with London-based the Times newspaper, refer to a much-scrutinised dinner between Michel Platini, then president of Uefa and vice-president of Fifa, Sarkozy, and the now Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, at the Elysee Palace on 23 November 2010.
The meeting was first revealed by France Football, in a 20-page report released in January 2013. The report alleged that Sarkozy pressured Platini to change his vote from the US to Qatar, in order for France to receive benefits, including the creation of a satellite sports network, and the purchase of Paris St-Germain Football Club, of which Sarkozy is a fan.
Both of these took place, with the Qatar Investment Authority purchasing Paris St-Germain in June 2011, and subsequently launching BeIN Sports in France in 2012, holding the rights to broadcast all major French football leagues and European tournaments.
In his interview with the Times, Blatter claimed Sarkozy told Platini to change his vote, something Platini has consistently denied.
You cannot buy a World Cup, it will go at the end where the higher political influences are, the former Fifa president added. For World Cup 2022, Platini at least had the courtesy to phone me and say: ‘Now we have had a meeting with the head of state and if the head of state is asking me to support France for different reasons then I will’. He was very correct, he phoned me and said my vote will not be for the Americans.
He said if a head of state is asking you, you can still say yes or no, but in the interests of France I knew then there would be a problem. We tried, but it was too late.
A decision on Blatter and Platinis appeal against their eight-year bans is expected next week, around the same time the next Fifa president will be elected.