Africa begs Blatter to stay
ZURICH — Sepp Blatter may seek to stay on as the president of FIFA, a Swiss newspaper reported on Sunday, less than two weeks after indicating he would step down over a major corruption scandal at the organisation.
However, Domenico Scala, the official overseeing the process of choosing a new president, said that Blatter’s departure was an “indispensable” part of planned reforms to football’s governing body.
Blatter is under pressure to step down for good as US and Swiss authorities widened their investigations into bribery and corruption at the sport’s global governing body. EU lawmakers are among those calling for his immediate departure.
But according to the Schweiz am Sonntag newspaper, Blatter had received messages of support from African and Asian football associations, asking him to rethink his decision to step down.
Blatter was honoured by the support and had not ruled out remaining in office, the newspaper said, citing an anonymous source close to him.
Blatter said on June 2 he would step down as FIFA president in the wake of the corruption investigation, having led football’s world governing body since 1998,, although he would stay on until a successor was elected.
FIFA, in an emailed statement, referred Reuters to the speech Blatter made on June 2 and said they had “no further comment to make”.
In his speech, Blatter said: “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.”
He also added: “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.”
But Scala, head of FIFA’S audit and compliance committee, said in a statement that Blatter needed to stick by his pledge that he would not stand again.
“For me, the reforms are the central topic,” he said, without referring to the interview directly.
“That is why I think it is clearly indispensable to follow through with the initiated process of president’s change as has been announced. “
Blatter has changed his mind in the past. When he began his fourth mandate in 2011, he said it would be his last, but he later backed down, stood again and was re-elected in May.
FIFA is expected to pick his replacement at an extraordinary congress in Zurich between December and February.. The exact date will be decided by an executive committee meeting on July 20.
Blatter’s renewed interest in the job was also a reason for the departure of Walter de Gregorio as FIFA’S director of communications, since he had argued for a completely new start and advised Blatter to go, the Swiss newspaper said.
De Gregorio declined to comment to the newspaper.
Meanwhile, Morocco’s football federation denied on Sunday allegations that the country had paid a bribe to a FIFA executive during its unsuccessful bid to host the 1998 World Cup.
US authorities are investigating corruption at FIFA, football’s global governing body, while Swiss prosecutors have announced their own criminal inquiry into the 2018 and 2022 bids awarded, respectively, to Russia and Qatar.
France hosted the 1998 tournament, but US court documents contain prosecutors’ alle- gations that bidding nation Morocco had paid a bribe to a FIFA executive, Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago.
Warner has denied this and other charges against him and has said he fears for his life, though he has also said he will tell investigators all he knows about corruption at FIFA.
“Morocco denies categorically these slanderous accusations against the officials of the country’s organising committee of the 1998 World Cup,” said a statement from Morocco’s football federation, known by its French initials FRMF, according to state news agency MAP.
“Regarding its efforts ... Morocco deserved better treatment instead of tendentious and unfounded rumours,” it said.
Earlier this month, FIFA postponed the bidding for the right to host the 2026 World Cup and Swiss authorities took possession of computer data from the global football body that a source said included records from the office of its president.
The FBI are investigating bribery and corruption at FIFA, including scrutiny of how football’s governing body awarded World Cup hosting rights to Russia and Qatar.