Soccer’s governing body voted against delaying today’s presidential election to pursue corruption probes, putting incumbent Sepp Blatter in line for a fourth term.
Blatter is the lone candidate in the election for the four- year post. He told delegates at FIFA’s congress in Zurich that future World Cup hosts should be selected by all of the body’s 208 members after concerns about the selection process for the 2018 and 2022 events. An English request to delay Blatter’s re- election was defeated in a 172-17 vote with 17 abstentions.
Blatter’s opponent Mohamed Bin Hammam withdrew a day before being suspended alongside FIFA Vice President Jack Warner following allegations the duo conspired to buy votes. Warner and Bin Hammam deny wrongdoing. Two executives in the selection of the 2018 and 2022 hosts were removed before the vote for Russia and Qatar following a newspaper report that they had offered to sell their support.
“We all know the FIFA ship is in moving waters, I could even say in troubled waters,” Blatter, 75, told delegates. “But I think the ship must be brought back on the right route and I’m the captain of the ship so it’s my duty and responsibility to see that we get on the right route.”
Traditionally, the host of the World Cup has been selected by FIFA’s 24-member executive committee. Blatter’s proposal, which needs approval from the congress, would increase the vote to the representatives of all the associations. The president also pledged to reinforce FIFA’s disciplinary bodies.
The scandals have roiled the sport and increased pressure for reform on FIFA, which generates $4 billion from the World Cup. The issues have concerned sponsors that pay it $343 million to be associated with the World Cup, the most-watched sporting event.
Theo Zwanziger, president of the German soccer federation, said on the organization’s website that FIFA “needs to take a closer look” at the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. Warner two days ago revealed an e-mail sent to him by FIFA’s General Secretary Jerome Valcke that suggested Qatar “bought” the rights. On May 30, the Persian Gulf nation’s bid team said it ‘categorically’ denied any wrongdoing.
Bin Hammam, the Qatari head of soccer in Asia, withdrew his candidacy for the presidency amid accusations he tried to bribe Caribbean officials with $40,000 each in cash to vote for him.
England’s Football Association chairman David Bernstein took the stage to call for the vote to be delayed because “coronation without an opponent provides a flawed mandate.” He said the pause could allow a reforming candidate the opportunity to stand against Blatter.
His message was poorly received by the majority of nation’s present. Officials from Haiti, Congo DR, Cyprus, Fiji and Benin took the stage to voice their dissatisfaction before Julio Grondona, a FIFA vice president from Argentina, complained about the British move.
“We always have attacks from England, where mostly with lies and with the support of a journalism which is more busy lying than telling the truth this upsets and disturbs the FIFA family,” the 78-year-old said.
Chuck Blazer, the U.S. official who reported Warner and Bin Hammam’s alleged bribery, was removed from his post as General Secretary of Concacaf, the body responsible for soccer in North and Central America yesterday by its acting head Lisle Austin. Other Concacaf officials put a statement on the organization’s website stating Lisle, who replaced Warner this week, didn’t have the authority to remove Blazer.
‘Too Little, Too Late’
Blazer, who didn’t immediately return an e-mail and text message seeking comment on Austin’s actions, said that England’s action was “too little, too late.”
“The F.A. needs to learn to be ahead of the curve and not behind the game,” he said.
The scandal has caused disquiet among FIFA’s sponsors.
Visa Inc. (V), the biggest bank card network, and airline Emirates yesterday joined Coca-Cola Co. (KO) and Adidas AG, to voice their concerns. Visa said, “the current situation is clearly not good for the game and we ask that FIFA take all necessary steps to resolve the concerns that have been raised.”
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