FIFA leader Sepp Blatter wins 5th term amid mass graft scandal

FIFA leader Sepp Blatter wins 5th term amid mass graft scandal

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Two days after seven FIFA officials were arrested by Swiss police on charges of corruption, and others were detained around the world, septuagenarian and incumbent leader Sepp Blatter — who has led FIFA since 1998 and weathered numerous calls to resign — has won a fifth term as president.
As FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) met in Zurich to hold its 65th congress and leadership election, several of the top seats stayed empty.Blatter, 79, was up against one rival to retain his leadership: 39-year-old Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, one of eight FIFA vice presidents. But a win for Blatter means he remains at the helm of soccer’s largest and most profitable organization.
Neither of the candidates obtained the two-thirds majority needed to win outright in the first round of voting, with Ali receiving 73 votes and Blatter getting 133 — seven short of the 140 requirement. Therefore eligible attendees were asked to vote again, with a simple majority enough to win the second round.
Following this result, Ali took to the stage to thank those “brave enough to support” him and to announced he was withdrawing from the race.
Next, Blatter addressed the congress. “For the next four years I will be in command of this boat called FIFA,” he said, before thanking the audience for their votes.
“I like you. I like my job, and I like to be with you. I’m not perfect,” he added. “Nobody’s perfect.”
Much of Europe, the US Soccer Federation, Australia, and New Zealand’s federation haddeclared their intention to vote for Hussein, with Michel Platini, the president of European confederation UEFA, describing the Jordanian prince as “young, he’s ambitious and that’s why I support him. He can do some good, he doesn’t need money.”
However, Blatter was still expected to receive the majority of support, with many other members from Asia, Africa, and South America declaring their intention to vote for him. Blatter has tried to expand soccer in the developing world and help develop an appropriate infrastructure.
At the beginning of Friday’s proceedings, Blatter made a long speech in which he encouraged attendees to “join us to put FIFA back on the right track and where the boats will stop rocking and go placidly into port.”
Some pointed out the similarity between these sentiments and a speech Blatter made in 2011. Following the controversy around the awarding of the subsequent World Cups to Russia and Qatar, he stated, “The FIFA ship is in troubled waters, but this ship must be brought back on the right track. I am the captain of the ship. It is therefore my duty and responsibility to see to it that we get back on track.”
On Friday, Blatter referred to the corruption controversy by saying that the arrested officials “are truly at fault, especially if they are found guilty. They are not the entire organization; [they are]certain individuals who have forgotten that FIFA is based on respect, discipline, and a team sport with the same goal.”
However, he added, “We cannot constantly supervise everybody in football.”
Near the end of his first speech, Blatter said, “It is not good for all this to occur two days before the election. I’m not going to use the word ‘coincidence’ but I do have a small question mark.”
Related: FIFA Fallout Intensifies as Putin Accuses US of ‘Illegally Persecuting People’
As FIFA’s congress continued, Qatar’s World Cup committee issued its first statement concerning the arrests on Friday. It read, “Our aim through hosting the FIFA World Cup is to utilize the positive power of sport to unify people” and to show the region’s passion for soccer.
Continuing, the statement said that Qatar, which will host the World Cup in 2022, had “fully complied with every investigation that has been initiated concerning the 2018/2022 bidding process and will continue to do so,” and that the country had “conducted our bid with integrity.”
The fallout after the arrests saw politicians wading into the debacle. UK Prime Minister David Cameron joined calls for Blatter to step down, while Russian President Vladimir Putin — Russia will host the World Cup in 2018 — questioned the timing of the arrests, and said that they were a signal that the US is attempting to expand its jurisdiction.
Following several other events, including a bomb alert, the presentation of the 2014 financial report, and a speech from Palestinian soccer chief Jibril Rajoub — who announced he had withdrawn a motion to have Israel suspended from FIFA — Blatter and Ali made their final 15-minute appeals.
When addressing the assembled audience, Ali finished by saying, “I ask you only to listen to your conscience and listen to your hearts.”
In his final speech Blatter called the World Cup — the main source of FIFA’s income — “the goose of the golden eggs,” while expressing a desire to “fix” FIFA “now, and tomorrow, and the day after, and in the weeks and months to come.”
He added, “We don’t need revolutions, but we always need evolutions.”
FIFA is a hugely powerful organization with income sources worldwide, though it has been mired in allegations of bribery and corruption. FIFA’s income between 2011 and 2014 was $5.7 billion. Meanwhile, it was announced at the congress that each of the 209 voting nations would receive a $500,000 bonus from World Cup profits.
The election involved individual votes from the 209 member soccer associations. In the first round, 140 votes are needed for a candidate to win outright. Otherwise, a second round can be won by a simple majority.
Blatter was not among those implicated in Wednesday’s arrests, which relate to two probes led by Swiss and US investigators.
However, on Thursday, investigative journalist Andrew Jennings tweeted saying that he had supplied the FBI with the “crucial documents” that triggered the arrests. “There will be more to come,” he added. “Blatter is a target.”
Related: FIFA Bosses Get Rude Awakening With Arrests at Their Five Star Swiss Hotel
Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd – Vice News

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