Sport Soccer

Monday 24 October 2016

Sepp Blatter chairs emergency crisis meeting as pressure mounts on Fifa boss

Published 28/05/2015 | 12:33

FIFA President Sepp Blatter
FIFA President Sepp Blatter

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has chaired an emergency meeting with continental football bodies while staying out of public view himself.

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Mr Blatter called together leaders of Fifa's six regions as world football is rocked by an American federal racketeering case.

Fifa spokeswoman Delia Fischer said in a statement: "There was a meeting today with the president with the representatives from the confederations to discuss the current situation."

Mr Blatter is resisting calls from European football body Uefa to postpone tomorrow's Fifa presidential election by six months.

Uefa has called the dual American and Swiss federal probes a "disaster for Fifa", and is supporting Mr Blatter's election opponent, Fifa vice president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.

Mr Blatter has continued to avoid appearing in public since Swiss federal agencies raided Fifa headquarters and a luxury Zurich hotel early yesterday.

Read more: FIFA chief Blatter faces questioning over 'corruption'

He missed giving a scheduled speech to open a session of Fifa's medical conference in a Zurich hotel - his third skipped public appearance within 24 hours.

Fifa chief medical officer Jiri Dvorak told delegates that Mr Blatter has to "manage the situation".

Two Fifa vice presidents were among seven men arrested at the request of the US Department of Justice. In a separate investigation, Swiss federal agencies seized evidence at Fifa headquarters for a probe of the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests.

Mr Blatter skipped two meetings of continental football organisations from Africa and South America yesterday.

He typically would attend those ahead of tomorrow's annual congress of Fifa's 209 member federations.

Late yesterday, Fifa issued a statement on behalf of Mr Blatter where the president insisted he was determined to root out misconduct.

The Fifa president would also usually follow protocol and attend yesterday's Uefa meeting. He is scheduled to appear later in the day.

Mr Blatter is also expected to address member federations - the Fifa election voters - at the opening ceremony of the congress at 5pm local time.

Meanwhile, English Prime Minister David Cameron has supported calls for FIFA president Sepp Blatter to quit.

During a regular Westminster briefing, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "I associated the Prime Minister in full with what John Whittingdale was saying.

"The responsibility with regard to football administration is for football administrators but the FA - and we are squarely behind the FA - supports the candidacy of Prince Ali and we are four square behind that."

Asked if the Prime Minister believed the next World Cup should be staged in England, the spokesman said: "I understand many England fans were disappointed that England's bid hadn't been successful. You know that the Prime Minister was one of them. He was out there trying to get a successful England bid at that time.

"But, the focus now is both the investigations and reform of FIFA."

Read more: FBI unearths '24-year scheme to corrupt soccer'

Read more: FIFA chief Blatter faces questioning over 'corruption'

The US Department of Justice indictment of 18 people said bribes totalling more than 150million US dollars (£98million) had been paid for television rights, sponsorship deals and World Cup votes. The crisis led European football's governing body UEFA to call for Friday's FIFA presidential election to be postponed and questioned whether its 53 voting associations should even attend the Congress.

In a separate development, the Swiss attorney general also opened criminal proceedings over the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, seized documents and electronic data from FIFA's headquarters and will question 10 current FIFA executive committee members who voted on those tournaments.

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke also feels it is time for Blatter to go but has dismissed any chance of England being installed as replacement World Cup hosts in three years' time.

Dyke said: "This is absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with an England bid for the World Cup or England hosting the World Cup.

"This is about one thing: how do you rebuild the reputation of FIFA and turn it into an open, fair and honest organisation with Blatter still at the helm?"

Dyke added: "Blatter has put out a statement saying now is the time to start rebuilding the trust in FIFA. There is no way of rebuilding trust in FIFA while Sepp Blatter is still there.

"Sepp Blatter has to go. He either has to go through a resignation, or he has to be outvoted or we have to find a third way."

One of FIFA's leading sponsors Visa has said it will reassess its deal with the world governing body unless reforms are implemented.

Dyke added: "It will be interesting to see how many other sponsors come out and say things like that.

"I think the time has come where the damage this has done to FIFA is so great that it can't be rebuilt while Blatter is there so UEFA has got to try to force him out."

UEFA said in a statement on Wednesday the events were ''a disaster for FIFA'' and called for a change of leadership. The statement added: ''These events show, once again, that corruption is deeply rooted in FIFA's culture."

Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan said momentum was building behind Prince Ali's campaign to oust Blatter.

Regan said: "Prince Ali has now come into focus and from conversations in the UEFA hotel (on Wednesday night) is being seen as a very credible candidate - and a potential candidate to unite other confederations as well."

Russia 2018 organising committee head Alexey Sorokin insisted he was not concerned about the criminal investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and said there was no point in even discussing the idea of a re-vote for the tournaments - something FIFA has also ruled out.

He told Sky Sports News: "We have repeatedly stated that we're not afraid of any investigation.

"We co-operated with the investigation that was going on for about two years which was headed by Mr (Michael) Garcia. We submitted all the facts, all the papers, we submitted our testimonies - we did everything the process wanted us to do. We don't know what else we can contribute to that.

"We repeatedly said the process was transparent and that we're not concerned with any investigations. It's just strange there's a chance to go through the same thing again, where everything was seemingly closed."

Asked if he was worried about a re-vote, he added: "No, because we are so deep in the preparation, we've done so much. Our government, our country, has done so much already for the preparation of an excellent World Cup, I don't even want to discuss it with anyone."

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