Sepp Blatter has stunned the world of football, resigning as Fifa president just four days after being re-elected to a fifth term.
The 79-year-old, who has held office since 1998, announced the decision in Zurich on Tuesday (NZT Wednesday), six days after Swiss police, acting on a request from United States authorities, raided a hotel in the Swiss city and arrested several Fifa officials in a corruption investigation. Blatter has not been charged.
“While I have a mandate from the membership of Fifa, I do not feel I have a mandate from the entire world of football – the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at Fifa,” Blatter said.
“This is why I will call an extraordinary congress to be held as soon as possible, for a new president to be elected to follow me.”
Domenico Scala, head of Fifa’s independent audit and compliance committee, said there would need to be four months’ notice for any new presidential election.
“The decision for the timing of the election of the next president will be up to the executive committee and will take place any time from December until March.”
This is good news for football, but why the change of heart? He was totally defiant just two days ago.
One possibility is that the corruption probe was getting close to him personally. The $10,000,000 payment to Jack Warner was apparently made by the FIFA Secretary-General. How credible is it Blatter would not have known?
But I think the bigger issue, is that the next World Cup was facing a boycott. Having chatted to a number of friends in Europe, there was strong support for UEFA to refuse to participate while Blatter remained in charge, and corruption so rampant. And a World Cup without Germany, Italy, Spain and France would be meaningless. Plus the commercial money would dry up without the Europeans.
Hopefully the next President will be someone of unimpeachable integrity – but also someone who will seek and get a mandate to fundamentally restructure FIFA so that future world cup venues will be decided by merit, not bribes.