After Sepp Blatter - what next for Fifa?

Sepp Blatter, who is standing down as head of FIFA.
Sepp Blatter, who is standing down as head of FIFA.
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THE BELATED resignation of Sepp Blatter as Fifa’s president is “only the beginning of the process of change we need to see”, Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said.

The sudden departure of the head of world football’s governing body just days after being re-elected to the role – despite the arrests of Fifa officials on suspicion of decades of bribe-taking – was warmly welcomed by UK politicians.

Prime Minister David Cameron was among those who had publicly called for him to go amid widespread demands from critics for the controversial decisions to award World Cups to Russia and Qatar to be reopened.

Mr Whittingdale said: “Governments, national associations and international confederations, along with players and fans, have all called for Sepp Blatter to resign in recent days.

“We welcome his belated announcement today but this is only the beginning of the process of change we need to see from Fifa. I sincerely hope this is the first step to a new Fifa that can command the confidence and respect of the football world once again.”

Blatter, 79, who has held the role for 17 years, has called an extraordinary congress “as soon as possible”, saying “a new president will be elected to follow me”.

The congress will be held between this December and March, 2016.

Mr Blatter’s announcement comes after Fifa admitted it paid $10m destined for the South Africa World Cup to an account controlled by disgraced former vice-president Jack Warner.

The payment followed a letter from the South African FA to

Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke.

Mr Whittingdale said last week that the Government and the Football Association (FA) have not ruled out any options in the battle to end the “culture of kickbacks and corruption that risk ruining international football for a generation”.

Amid calls for a boycott of the World Cup, he assured MPs that the Government would do anything in its power to bring about change in world football’s governing body.

Two FA directors have resigned Fifa posts and FA chairman Greg Dyke said the resignation was “great news for football”.

Shadow Culture Secretary Chris Bryant said the hugely-controversial decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar should be reopened. “This is great news for football. I’m glad Sepp Blatter has listened to the overwhelming calls and taken the inevitable decision to go,” he said.

It is only four days since Blatter, 79, won a fifth term as Fifa president when Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein pulled out of the running in the second round of voting in Zurich.

Dyke said: “When I left on Friday I said ‘this is not over’ – but even I couldn’t have thought it’d be over so soon.

“Why didn’t he step down last week? Clearly there’s a smoking gun of some sort. He’s not been honourable in years. Now he’s gone – let’s celebrate.”

NO SOONER had Sepp Blatter announced his intention to stand down as president of Fifa, than speculation on who might replace him began.

Just hours after the British Government and the Football Association (FA) agreed not to rule out any options in the battle against alleged corruption in Fifa, Blatter announced he would be standing down.

The sudden departure of the head of world football’s governing body just days after being re-elected to the role – despite the arrests of Fifa officials on suspicion of decades of bribe-taking – was warmly welcomed by UK politicians.

But leading figures in the game are already being touted as a possible replacement. Former French international Michel Platini and Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, the man who lost a battle to unseat Blatter, were seen as the leading contenders.

Uefa’s president Platini has said in the past that he does not want to be Fifa president, but observers said that was because he did not want to take on Blatter and face losing.

Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein was the leading challenger to Blatter last week and did well to secure 73 votes in Friday’s presidential election in Zurich.

Despite no longer being a Fifa vice president and vowing to walk away from the organisation if he lost, he is still involved in football administration through the West Asian Football Federation, which makes him eligible to stand.

Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein hinted he may stand again. He said: “I think this is the right move from Sepp Blatter and I think we have to look to the future.

“I am always there to serve football and I think that’s the most important thing and to do so much work to fix this organisation in a proper way.

“I am at the disposal of our national associations. I don’t want to be somebody who kicks somebody in the knees. At the end of the day I will do my part to help the national associations.”

Outside contenders may be David Ginola, Luis Figo, the former Fifa World Player of the Year, and Greg Dyke, chairman of the English FA.

Whoever takes over, observers said Blatter must be properly investigated. Conservative MP Damian Collins, who has long campaigned for reform of world football’s governing body, said Mr Blatter must not be allowed to “escape the investigation of past wrongdoing” by departing now.

“There must now be full and open reform,” he said.

The Mayor of London and Tory MP Boris Johnson – who was part of England’s unsuccessful bid to host the 2018 World Cup – joined calls for that process to be reopened if the decision to hand it to Russia was shown to have been corrupted.

“Blatter has seen the writing on the wall – that’s good news – and yet he feels it is necessary to stay on long enough to oversee a transition,” he said.

“It’s typical Blatter – arrogant. He needs to go now, not tomorrow, not next month, not next year – now.

“It’s essential prosecutors in the US and Switzerland are able to work unhindered, and that Fifa moves quickly to repair it’s tarnished image.

“England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup deserved serious consideration. If it’s proven corruption prevented that process from being a fair one, then the vote for 2018 and 2022 should be re-run.

“London as the centrepiece of that bid, stands ready to help.”

Fifa partner Coca-Cola, which last week expressed concern about the controversy surrounding the organisation and responded to Blatter’s re-election by urging him to lead a reform process, issued a statement describing his departure as a “positive step”.

“We respect Mr Blatter’s decision,” the statement said. “The announcement today is a positive step for the good of sport, football and its fans.

“Our expectation remains that Fifa will continue to act with urgency to take concrete actions to fully address all of the issues that have been raised and win back the trust of all who love the sport of football. We believe this decision will help Fifa transform itself rapidly into a much-needed 21st century structure and institution.”

SEPP BLATTER RESIGNATION STATEMENT

Here is the full statement from Sepp Blatter following his resignation as president of FIFA, world football’s governing body:

“I have been reflecting deeply about my presidency and about the forty years in which my life has been inextricably bound to FIFA and the great sport of football. I cherish FIFA more than anything and I want to do only what is best for FIFA and for football. I felt compelled to stand for re-election, as I believed that this was the best thing for the organisation. That election is over but FIFA’s challenges are not. FIFA needs a profound overhaul.

While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that 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.

Therefore, I have decided to lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective congress. I will continue to exercise my functions as FIFA president until that election.

The next ordinary FIFA congress will take place on 13 May 2016 in Mexico City. This would create unnecessary delay and I will urge the executive committee to organise an extraordinary congress for the election of my successor at the earliest opportunity. This will need to be done in line with FIFA’s statutes and we must allow enough time for the best candidates to present themselves and to campaign.

Since I shall not be a candidate, and am therefore now free from the constraints that elections inevitably impose, I shall be able to focus on driving far-reaching, fundamental reforms that transcend our previous efforts. For years, we have worked hard to put in place administrative reforms, but it is plain to me that while these must continue, they are not enough.

The executive committee includes representatives of confederations over whom we have no control, but for whose actions FIFA is held responsible. We need deep-rooted structural change.

The size of the executive committee must be reduced and its members should be elected through the FIFA congress. The integrity checks for all executive committee members must be organised centrally through FIFA and not through the confederations. We need term limits not only for the president but for all members of the executive committee.

I have fought for these changes before and, as everyone knows, my efforts have been blocked.

This time, I will succeed.

I cannot do this alone. I have asked Domenico Scala to oversee the introduction and implementation of these and other measures. Mr Scala is the independent chairman of our audit and compliance committee elected by the FIFA congress. He is also the chairman of the ad hoc electoral committee and, as such, he will oversee the election of my successor. Mr Scala enjoys the confidence of a wide range of constituents within and outside of FIFA and has all the knowledge and experience necessary to help tackle these major reforms.

It is my deep care for FIFA and its interests, which I hold very dear, that has led me to take this decision. I would like to thank those who have always supported me in a constructive and loyal manner as president of FIFA and who have done so much for the game that we all love. What matters to me more than anything is that when all of this is over, football is the winner.”

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