Blatter to Stand Down as Fifa President

Sepp Blatter has announced he will resign as Fifa president.

Blatter’s resignation will only take effect once a new Fifa election has been held, and he has also confirmed he will not run again.

Speaking at an impromptu press conference in Zurich on Tuesday, he said: “An extraordinary congress is to be called to elect my successor as soon as possible.”

Blatter recently won a fifth term as head of world football’s governing body. The 79-year-old defeated Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein in last week’s election in Zurich, after the latter Fifa vice-president for Asia threw in the towel before a run-off vote.

Blatter polled 133 of the 209 member associations’ votes, while Prince Ali won just 73 in a first round election. The fraction of votes by either candidates did not represent a required 140 votes for a 2/3 lead, prompting the second round poll.

Blatter Thumbs Up His Supporters During Last Week's FIFA Congress. Image: AP.
Blatter Thumbs Up His Supporters During Last Week’s FIFA Congress. Image: AP.

“I felt compelled to stand for re-election, as I believed that this was the best thing for the organisation,” Blatter reflected. “That election is over but FIFA’s challenges are not. FIFA needs a profound overhaul.

“While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football– the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at FIFA.

“Therefore, I have decided to lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective Congress. I will continue to exercise my functions as FIFA President until that election.”

With FIFA’s next congress slated for May 2016 in Mexico, Blatter felt the need for a speedy process for the election of his successor imperative; hence, called for an extraordinary congress in line with the governing body’s statutes.

That extra-ordinary congress is scheduled for sometimes between December and March 2016.

“Since I shall not be a candidate, and am therefore now free from the constraints that elections inevitably impose, I shall be able to focus on driving far-reaching, fundamental reforms that transcend our previous efforts,” he said. “For years, we have worked hard to put in place administrative reforms, but it is plain to me that while these must continue, they are not enough.”

Blatter’s resignation news has come as a bombshell to the football world, with many asking which way forward for the 111-year-old enterprise? President of European football governing body, Michelle Plattini, ex-Fifa World Player of the Year, Luis Figo, and Prince Ali are early favourites to succeed Blatter.

For many, it is a welcomed development in line with the recent spate of bribery and corruption investigation of top Fifa officials.

Seven high-ranking Fifa functionaries were arrested in a dawn raid just over 48 hours before the body’s 65th Congress to be investigated in tandem but separately by the Attorney General of Switzerland and the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

The US Department of Justice have also indicted 14 persons of accepting bribes and kickbacks worth over $150million (£98million) in an investigation which dates back to 1991.

Swiss authorities began separate proceedings into suspected cases of fraudulent/criminal misconduct and money laundering linked with allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar respectively.

Former Fifa Vice President, Jack Warner, is accused of taking bribes worth $10million (£6.5million) from the South African government to host the 2010 World Cup.

The time on Blatter’s hands might be too short to clean up world football, now that he has announced he will be ending his 17-year reign as president, but the Swiss wants to enact changes to “integrity checks for all Executive Committee members” to “be organised centrally through FIFA and not through the confederations”

“The size of the Executive Committee must be reduced and its members should be elected through the FIFA Congress,” Blatter proposed. “We need term limited not only for the president but for all members of the Executive Committee. I have fought for these changes before and, as everyone knows, my efforts have been blocked. This Time, I will succeed.

“I cannot do this alone. I have asked Domenico Scala (Chairman Audit and Compliance Committee) to oversee the introduction and implementation of these and other measures.

“He is also the Chairman of the ad hoc Electoral Committee and, as such, he will oversee the election of my successor. Mr. Scala enjoys the confidence of a wide range of constituents within and outside of FIFA and has all the knowledge and experience necessary to help tackle these major reforms.”

Blatter concluded: “It is my deep care for FIFA and its interests, which I hold very dear, that has led me to take this decision. I would like to thank those who have always supported me in a constructive and loyal manner as President of FIFA and who have done so much for the game that we all love. What matters to me more than anything is that when all of this is over, football is the winner.”