An International Media Roundtable was held at the Home of FIFA on Tuesday 15 May 2007 with almost 50 journalists from all over the world in attendance for a dialogue with FIFA President Joseph Blatter.
The President began the two hour session by thanking the journalists for their attendance and their interest in the game of football. He also quipped that he would have enjoyed a discussion around a proper round table, but admitted that the Home of FIFA did not have a table big enough to accommodate the numbers!
Doing a veritable tour d'horizon, Mr. Blatter spoke on a number of issues ranging from the forthcoming FIFA Congress in Zurich to the role of football in culture. Below are extracts from the Roundtable.
On the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ and his primary objective
Back in 1998 I first said that I wanted to bring the FIFA World Cup to Africa. 12 years after I had mentioned this goal and three years from now, South Africa will host the competition. They have had the opportunity to learn from the experience of Germany, who were excellent hosts of the tournament last year. In fact, FIFA has hired Horst R. Schmidt, the first vice-president of the LOC for Germany 2006 as a consultant for South Africa 2010. The South African LOC is well structured and we are continuing to monitor the construction of the stadiums to ensure that all deadlines are met. Plan A is South Africa, Plan B is South Africa and Plan C is South Africa. It's my hope that by the end of 2010, the footballing world will be experiencing the same highs that we experienced at the end of last year's FIFA World Cup in Germany.
On the forthcoming FIFA Congress and stability at FIFA
Since I became FIFA President, this will be the first time I have run unopposed for the position. This shows confidence in what I have done. It shows that the member associations and also the confederations have confidence in me, but I in turn have confidence in them and the way they are working. We must evolve in the same way football is evolving. I don't know whether this will be my last term as FIFA President. I have four more years. After that, we'll see. But first I must be formally re-elected at the end of this month.
On how football has changed since he became FIFA President
Football has evolved considerably over the past nine years. It's economic potential has come to the fore. You only have to look at the extraordinary amount of money in the big professional leagues to see that. But it is not just about money. More people are playing football. It brings hope and it is a school for life. It seems to me that football is becoming more important in people's lives - and that gives us a tremendous social responsibility.
On football's social responsibility
Football either directly or indirectly touches the lives of one billion people. It is part of our society and reflects the good and bad points of life. We must shoulder the social responsibilities it gives us. However, this is not just about FIFA: players, referees, clubs, leagues must realise the responsibilities they have and act accordingly.
On the 2014 FIFA World Cup
At present, we have only one candidate, which is Brazil. Don't be mistaken, just because we have only one candidate, the requirements will not be changed. The bar will be at the same level. In the next few months, we will check the country's infrastructure. At the Exco meeting which will take place in conjunction with the 2010 FIFA World Cup preliminary draw in November 2007 in Durban, we will take the decision on the hosts of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup.
On the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup
Originally, we were going to announce who would host the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup in August, but we have decided to put that back until November for two reasons. The first is that the candidates: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Peru and Switzerland are so strong that we want to do justice to their efforts and take the necessary time to review all bids thoroughly. The second is that we would like to see how the standards at the 2007 event in China will be as we are considering raising the number of teams involved in the competition from 16 to 24.
On FIFA's duty to scrutinise
We will ask the Premier League to provide us with the files related Tevez and Javier Mascherano as the governing body has to make sure that decisions at all levels are in compliance with rules and regulations of the game. We will monitor this situation very carefully. We will ask for the files and have a look because we have the right and the responsibility to see how such cases are dealt with. According to FIFA's files the transfer of Tevez and Mascherano from Brazilian side Corinthians to West Ham have complied with international transfer regulations.
It is important that we continue to train referees. In fact, we have committed to investing $14m USD for the training of referees over the next four years. The stakes of any football match is extremely high and we need to help them. With this in mind, during a forthcoming UEFA youth tournament, there will be four assistant referees, with two of them acting as traditional linesmen and the other being more of assistants to the head referee.We have tested this system in Zurich already and I hope it will help the referees exercise better control of the games.
The fight against doping is a continuing one. We took 23,000 samples in 2006, 91 of which yielded positive results. That is a total of 0.4 per cent. Of these 91 cases, 84 involved the use of recreational drugs - and seven did not. Despite these low numbers any one positive case is one too many. I am pleased to report that the new anti-doping code which has been discussed involves a distinction between team and individual sports. It has been accepted that individual case management is a must. Individuals, like footballers, must be treated on an individual basis. For the first time on 13 May I attended a WADA foundation board meeting in Montreal as a delegate of the IOC, which was another important step. I am also eager to find out whether any footballers were implicated in Operation Puerto.
The violence that we are seeing in stadiums is a reflection of the violence that we are experiencing in society at the moment. We have seen a reduction in violence in England after the country moved to all-seated arenas and we must consider this example. FIFA and governments must live up to their responsibilities in this respect. Comfort in stadiums is essential. We have to educate the fans and make them aware that violence is not acceptable. It is also the responsibility of footballers to behave appropriately - some of the recent scenes in Europe have saddened me.