Saturday 17 March 2018

Sepp Blatter under pressure to quit - but Vladimir Putin claims investigation is a ploy from US to take World Cup away from Russia

Sepp Blatter
Sepp Blatter
Fifa President Sepp Blatter has stayed out of public view
Russian President Vladimir Putin says the US is trying to derail Sepp Blatter's re-election as Fifa chief

Pressure is mounting on Fifa president Sepp Blatter to quit as politicians and sponsors lined up to demand action after the darkest day in its history which saw senior officials arrested on suspicion of "rampant" corruption.

Mr Blatter held a crisis meeting "with representatives of confederations" today, the organisation said, after sponsors including Via, Nike, adidas, Budweiser and Kia put pressure on world football's governing body to take immediate action to restore its tattered reputation.

British Prime Minister David Cameron joined the chorus calling for Mr Blatter to step down before tomorrow's planned leadership election in Zurich - amid calls for it to be postponed - after US investigators blew the lid on decades of "rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted'' corruption.

Read more here: Sepp Blatter chairs emergency crisis meeting as pressure mounts on Fifa boss 

FIFA President Sepp Blatter
FIFA President Sepp Blatter
FIFA President Sepp Blatter
Presenter Fernanda Lima alongside FIFA President Sepp Blatter during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Draw at the Costa Do Sauipe, Bahia, Brazil.

But support for the embattled Swiss bureaucrat came from Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has claimed the United States is meddling in Fifa's affairs in an attempt to take the 2018 World Cup away from his country.

Britain's new Culture Secretary John Whittingdale criticised Mr Blatter and told MPs the arrests were "shocking in both their scope and scale" but they were also "far from surprising".

Responding to an urgent question, he told the Commons: "Anyone who has spent any time looking at Fifa ... will know that this is merely the latest sorry episode, which suggests that Fifa is a deeply flawed and corrupt organisation.

Read more here: Nowhere to hide as Feds target FIFA corruption 

"These revelations have shown how important it is for sports bodies to uphold the highest standards of governance, transparency and accountability.

"That is what we ask and expect of all our own domestic sports bodies in the UK. International bodies should be no different and that is particularly true for an organisation like Fifa - an organisation that should be the guardian of the world's most popular sport, not one whose members seek to profit personally from the passion of the game's fans."

He added that Sports Minister Tracey Crouch will write to her European counterparts setting out the UK's concerns and seeking their support for change.

Downing Street said Mr Cameron backed Mr Whittingdale's remarks and said the Government was "four square" behind the candidacy of Blatter opponent Prince Ali for Fifa president in the election.

Visa said its "disappointment and concern" was "profound" as it warned Fifa to begin changes immediately.

It said: "Our sponsorship has always focused on supporting the teams, enabling a great fan experience, and inspiring communities to come together and celebrate the spirit of competition and personal achievement - and it is important that Fifa makes changes now, so that the focus remains on these going forward.

"Should Fifa fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship."

A Kia Motors Corporation spokesman said: "As a company that places the highest priority on ethical standards and transparency, Kia Motors is extremely concerned about the legal proceedings being taken against certain Fifa executives and will continue to monitor this situation closely."

Swiss police carried out a dawn raid on a five-star hotel used by Fifa executives yesterday and arrested seven officials including Jeffrey Webb, a Fifa vice-president from the Cayman Islands who holds a British passport.

Another Fifa vice-president, Eugenio Figueredo from Uruguay, was also arrested and Swiss officials said six of the seven are contesting extradition proceedings to the US to answer indictments.

Read more here: Blatter faces fresh questions after FIFA darkest day  

The US Department of Justice indictment of 18 people said bribes totalling more than 150 million US dollars (£98 million) had been paid for television rights, sponsorship deals and World Cup votes.

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 that tournament.

The crisis led European football managing body Uefa to call for tomorrow's Fifa presidential election to be postponed and it questioned whether its 53 voting associations should even attend the Congress.

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke called for Mr Blatter to quit, saying "There is no way of rebuilding trust in Fifa while Sepp Blatter is still there."

Press Association

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