Sepp Blat­ter, FIFA fac­ing ad­di­tional crit­i­cism

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY ROB HAR­RIS

In the UK’s House of Com­mons, they’re call­ing for Sepp Blat­ter’s head. And even in­side the FIFA pres­i­dent’s own ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, there is the threat of res­ig­na­tion.

A new week has brought new tur­moil for soc­cer’s em­bat­tled 79-year-old pres­i­dent and his scan­dal-tainted gov­ern­ing body, which is in the midst of the worst cor­rup­tion case in its 111-year his­tory.

“For the good of the game, it is time for Sepp Blat­ter to go,” Bri­tish sports and cul­ture sec­re­tary John Whit­ting­dale told the House of Com­mons on Mon­day.

While the newly re-elected Blat­ter seems to be go­ing nowhere de­spite the ar­rests and in­dict­ments of sev­eral soc­cer of­fi­cials last week in Zurich, oth­ers are call­ing it quits or threat­en­ing to do so.

FIFA med­i­cal chief Michel D’Hooghe, the long­est-serv­ing mem­ber on the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, said he would leave un­less there were rapid re­forms.

“I can­not rec­on­cile my­self with an in­sti­tu­tion where I work, where I have car­ried the med­i­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity for 27 years and about which I now learn that there is a lot of cor­rup­tion,” D’Hooghe told the VRT tele­vi­sion net­work in Bel­gium.

“My con­clu­sion is very clear: I will no longer con­tinue to par­tic­i­pate (in FIFA) un­der such con­di­tions. So, it is high time for change to come and we will see over the com­ing days what may hap­pen. Let’s be clear, if this at­mos­phere prevails at FIFA, I have no place there.”

D’Hooghe has served on FIFA’s rul­ing body since 1988, a decade be­fore Blat­ter’s move up from sec­re­tary gen­eral to pres­i­dent.

“If you are faced with an ab­scess, sim­ple med­i­ca­tion does not suf­fice,” D’Hooghe said. “You have to cut it open.”

Heather Rab­batts went a step fur­ther and re­signed from her post on the FIFA anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion task force.

That body, un­til last week, was chaired by Jef­frey Webb, who was suspended as a FIFA vice pres­i­dent and re­mains in cus­tody in Switzer­land along with six oth­ers af­ter be­ing ar­rested as part of the U.S. cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Rab­batts is also a direc­tor at the English Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, a long-stand­ing critic of Blat­ter.

“Like many in the game I find it un­ac­cept­able that so lit­tle has been done to re­form FIFA,” she wrote in a let­ter to FIFA. “And it is clear from the re-elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Blat­ter that the chal­lenges fac­ing FIFA and the on­go­ing dam­age to the rep­u­ta­tion of foot­ball’s world gov­ern­ing body are bound to con­tinue to over­shadow and un­der­mine the cred­i­bil­ity of any work in the anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion arena and be­yond.”

The cor­rup­tion scan­dal crept closer to FIFA’s Zurich head­quar­ters when The New York Times re­ported late Mon­day that U.S. law en­force­ment of­fi­cials be­lieve the high-rank­ing FIFA mem­ber men­tioned in the in­dict­ment as hav­ing made a US$10-mil­lion pay­ment cen­tral to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was Blat­ter’s right-hand man, Jerome Val­cke.

The re­port cited uniden­ti­fied of­fi­cials who be­lieve Val­cke, FIFA’s sec­re­tary gen­eral, trans­ferred the money in 2008 to ac­counts con­trolled by Jack Warner, the for­mer CON­CA­CAF pres­i­dent and FIFA vice pres­i­dent. That pay­ment was al­legedly made in ex­change for Warner and oth­ers hav­ing voted to give the 2010 World Cup to South Africa.

FIFA said the pay­ment, which South African of­fi­cials have said was meant to help with soc­cer devel­op­ment in the Caribbean, was au­tho­rized by the then­fi­nance com­mit­tee chair­man, per FIFA reg­u­la­tions. The chair­man, Julio Gron­dona, died last year.

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