Monday 18 November 2019

FAI boss John Delaney: This is still the beginning of the end for Sepp Blatter despite FIFA election victory

John Delaney can't see Sepp Blatter seeing out his four-year term
John Delaney can't see Sepp Blatter seeing out his four-year term
FIFA President Sepp Blatter reacts after a break during the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich

Martyn Ziegler

Sepp Blatter has been re-elected for a fifth term as FIFA president despite the crisis that has struck the world governing body this week.

Blatter saw off the challenge from Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan after a week which saw seven FIFA officials arrested and 18 people connected to football indicted on corruption charges by the US justice department.

Blatter won the first round by 133 votes to 73 and, after Prince Ali decided to withdraw ahead of the second round, the 79-year-old was installed as FIFA president for another four years.

The outcome of the first-round vote meant Prince Ali succeeded in preventing Blatter from winning a two-thirds majority, but the 39-year-old pulled out of the contest rather than force a second round of voting.

His supporters had been keen to get past the 70-vote mark as that would be seen to have delivered a bloody nose to Blatter.

John Delaney, chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland, believes that despite Blatter's victory the pressure of the latest crisis will mean he does not see out his four-year term.

He said: "I still think this is the beginning of the end of Sepp Blatter. I don't see him seeing his four years out - the momentum is too great.

"We have to see how best we can use the European muscle. We also need to go on a charm offensive with Africa and Asia.

He told RTE News: "It's not over. Blatter obviously won the vote today but there are a number of things that can happen. The FBI investigation and the Swiss investigation will continue and Blatter himself admitted yesterday that there would be more to come.

"There will be a meeting of the UEFA family at the Champions League final to determine a strategy going forward."

On the possibility of UEFA countries threatening to boycott major tournaments, he added: "There has been loose talk of that but it wouldn't be my way of doing things.

"There will be a lot of talk and discussions and a lot of people will be looking to UEFA as to what UEFA's stance will be going forward.

"I don't think the story is over at all. There is more to come."

The victory is also set to see further protests from UEFA - the first action has come from David Gill, the Football Association vice-chairman who will reject the post of British vice-president as he does not want to serve under Blatter.

Gill will not attend the post-Congress executive committee meeting on Saturday where a decision is set to be taken on the allocation of World Cup places to each confederation.

Blatter had told the 209 associations who gathered for the FIFA Congress in Zurich that the crisis would not have happened if countries other than Russia and Qatar had won the vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

In what appeared a reference to the United States and England losing out, Blatter called for unity from FIFA's 209 associations ahead of the presidential election.

Most of the media investigations into FIFA have come from Britain, while it is the US justice authorities that sparked the current crisis with the seven arrests this week and indictments of 18 people, 13 of them football officials.

Blatter told the FIFA Congress: ''If two other countries had emerged from the envelope I think we may not have these problems. But we can't go back in time, we're not prophets, we can't say what would have happened.''

Russia president Vladimir Putin on Thursday criticised the American indictments and claimed they were designed to undermine Blatter's re-election.

Blatter added of the police swoop which saw the seven FIFA officials arrested in Zurich on Wednesday: ''I am not going to use the word coincidence but I do have a small question mark.''

Blatter admitted the events of this week "unleashed a storm'' ahead of the election but appealed to delegates for unity, and said: "I am being held accountable for the current storm, okay so be it - I will shoulder that responsibility. I want to fix FIFA together with you - tomorrow, day after and in the weeks to come."

Blatter also hinted this term would be his last, saying: "At the end of my term of office I want to hand over a strong FIFA." He had given a similar message in 2011 however, only to change his mind and stand again.

He ended his address by spreading his arms and telling delegates: "I would just like to stay with you, I would like to continue with you."

Prince Ali, a 39-year-old graduate of military academy Sandhurst, had directly addressed the crisis that has struck FIFA and called for a "new dawn" for the world governing body.

He told delegates: "The eyes of the world are upon us and not for the first time and this time everything is at stake - for the game, for the world.

"The world that is watching is not a stakeholder separate from the game, FIFA does not exist in a bubble, There cannot be a more defining moment in time.

"We have heard in recent days voices describe our FIFA as morally bankrupt and an avaricious body which feeds off the game we love. There are no easy answers and no blame can be passed that washes away the stain.

"I will not hide among your ranks when things are bad and step forward when things are good. Now is the time to show the outside world that we are hungry for their respect.

"For the soul of our game and for a new dawn for FIFA."

Swiss police had earlier cleared the congress hall following a bomb threat. There was a another security incident when two pro-Palestinian protesters were ejected from the hall after making their way inside, while a demonstration calling for Israel to be ejected from FIFA continued outside.

The Palestinian FA dropped a proposal to have the Israeli FA suspended from FIFA but won the right for a committee to be established to ensure free movement of players and goods, and for FIFA to pass it to the United Nations to decide whether five Israeli settler clubs should be permitted to continue in "occupied territories".

This was followed by a symbolic handshake between the presidents of the Israeli and Palestinian FAs.

More to follow

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