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FIFA president Blatter to resign in wake of bribery scandal

Valeriano Di Domenico, AFP | FIFA President Sepp Blatter pictured after a press conference at the organisation’s headquarters in Zurich on June 2

FIFA president Sepp Blatter surprised the world on Tuesday by resigning as the head of football’s world governing body just four days after winning re-election. The move comes as FIFA faces a growing financing and corruption scandal.

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The announcement came less than a week after seven FIFA bosses were charged with racketeering, money laundering, wire fraud and other offences after being arrested at a luxury hotel in Zurich.

The 79-year-old Blatter, who has been at the head of FIFA for the past 17 years, said a special congress would be called to elect his successor “as soon as possible”.

The New York Times on Tuesday cited law enforcement officials as saying that Blatter was himself the focus of a US investigation into corruption. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the officials said they were hoping some of the FIFA officials now under indictment would cooperate in helping authorities build a case against Blatter.

Blatter clinched a fifth consecutive term as FIFA’s president last week after Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan conceded defeat ahead of a second round of the closely watched ballot in Switzerland.

The easy favourite going into the election, Blatter claimed 133 votes in the first round to Prince Ali’s 73.

"This mandate does not seem to be supported by everybody in the world of football," Blatter said at a hastily arranged news conference to announce his resignation. "FIFA needs a profound restructuring."

The Friday election was held even as US prosecutors pursued their investigations into FIFA officials and sports marketing executives.

'Rampant, systemic' corruption

Swiss authorities have launched a parallel probe into the controversial award of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

Blatter has said that "direct political influence" was involved in choosing Qatar, noting that both France and Germany have major economic interests in the Gulf state. But he and other FIFA officials have denied suggestions that Qatar used its oil wealth to buy the hosting rights to the World Cup.

FIFA launched its own investigation into the corruption allegations and released a redacted version of its report in December.

A statement from the US Department of Justice (DoJ) last week said the 14 defendants in the US investigation included two current FIFA vice presidents and leading officials from other football governing bodies. Other defendants included executives from US and South American sports marketing firms.

"The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States," said US Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

 

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