Friday 23 February 2018

Blatter rejects talk of crisis as FIFA's scandal widens

Sepp Blatter talks to the media during a press conference in Zurich, Switzerland, yesterday
Sepp Blatter talks to the media during a press conference in Zurich, Switzerland, yesterday

Robin Scott-Elliot in Zurich

IN an extraordinary piece of football theatre which ended amid farcical scenes, Sepp Blatter last night denied that Fifa was in crisis despite another of day of escalating scandal around senior figures in football's governing body.

During a fractious press conference in Zurich, Mr Blatter said: "Crisis? What is a crisis? Football is not in a crisis. We are not in a crisis, we are only in some difficulties."

The conference, which followed a meeting of Fifa's executive committee, broke up with an angry Mr Blatter exiting the room as a German journalist shouted questions after him.

The 75-year-old Swiss refused to comment on a leaked email from his general secretary, Jerome Valcke, that Qatar had "bought" the 2022 World Cup and claimed there was no evidence that the Qatar bid was "touched" by corruption claims and so FIFA would do "nothing". Mr Blatter, who is set to be handed a fourth term as Fifa president in tomorrow's uncontested election, also ruled out any prospect of a re-vote on the 2022 result. He said: "There is no issue with the World Cup 2022."

He became more irritated as the 30-minute conference progressed. At one point, when asked why he had allowed Fifa's reputation to be "damaged on his watch", he pointedly looked at his wristwatch. Later he snapped: "Please respect me. We are not in a bazaar here we are in Fifa House."

He insisted: "Fifa is strong enough that we can deal with our problems inside Fifa. We can solve our problems." But those problems are mounting rapidly, whatever Mr Blatter may claim. Throughout yesterday, claim and counter-claim swept around the lobbies of Zurich's high-end hotels. It leaves Fifa in a state of turmoil ahead of the opening of its two-day annual congress tonight, at which the presidential election will take place. Jack Warner had promised that a "tsunami" would hit football following the suspensions of him and Mohamed bin Hammam over bribery allegations and has since hit out at Mr Blatter and Mr Valcke. The most damaging is his publication of an email sent to him by Mr Valcke in which the Frenchman, a key ally of Mr Blatter, wrote that Qatar had "bought" the 2022 World Cup finals.

That prompted a furious reaction from Qatar, the small Emirate state that emerged as the shock hosts of the finals after a controversial vote in Zurich last December. It threatened legal action and has denied any wrongdoing.

Irish Independent

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