Walter De Gregorio has stepped down from his position as director of communications and public affairs at Fifa.
World football’s governing body said in a statement that the 46-year-old “has decided to relinquish his position,” a notion which is in stark contrast with reports coming from Switzerland that Fifa’s outgoing president Sepp Blatter asked him to leave.
It added that De Gregorio, who joined Fifa in September 2011, will serve on a consultancy basis until the end of the year and will henceforth be replaced by his deputy Nicolas Maingot, serving on an interim basis.
“Walter has worked incredibly hard for the past four years and we are immensely grateful for all he has done. I am glad we will be able to continue to draw on his expertise until the end of the year,” said FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke.
In the meantime, De Gregorio’s sudden departure has been tied to a certain article in a Swiss magazine, Klein Report, which featured quotes from Klaus J Stohlker, a Public Relations professional utilised on an ad-hoc basis by Blatter.
The article which was published on 2 June reportedly criticised Fifa’s communication strategy. The release date coincided with the date Blatter announced he was stepping down from the position he has held for 17 years.
Gregorio, a world renowned journalist who leaves in Zurich and has a dual Swiss and Italian passport, was said to have approached Mr Blatter and questioned if he supported the views of Stohlker. As a result of the disagreement, De Gregorio was asked to quit his job.
“The Fifa president, the general secretary and the communications director are all in a car. Who’s driving? Answer: The police.,” De Gregorio is quoted to have once said on Swiss TV- an ill-times joke which is also thought to have hastened his departure.
Fifa will elect Blatter’s successor in an extraordinary congress expected to take place as early as 16 December.
Top football officials have been at centre-stage of simultaneous but separate corruption investigation by Swiss authorities and the U.S. Justice Department.