Scrutiny of the decision to award the game’s biggest spectacle to the tiny Gulf nation has intensified amid discussions about switching the tournament from summer to winter to avoid searing heat.
“Yes, definitely there was direct political influences,” Blatter said. “European leaders recommended to their voting members to vote for Qatar because they have great economic interests with this country.”
Blatter’s comments have been interpreted in some quarters as a veiled swipe at Michel Platini, the president of European governing body Uefa who has designs on the top job at Fifa.
Platini voted for Qatar’s bid but earlier this year issued a statement denouncing “lies” that he did so under the influence of then French president Nicolas Sarkozy in order to secure economic agreements between the two countries.