Sepp Blatter will end his scandal-tainted 40-year association with FIFA Feb. 26, with Michel Platini favored to succeed him as president of soccer’s governing body.
“I will not run for re-election next year,” Blatter said at press conference in Zurich Monday that was delayed after a British comedian threw a wad of fake dollar bills at the 79-year-old.
Blatter said June 2 he would stay on to oversee changes proposed after the arrest of several senior officials in May on charges that the U.S. Department of Justice said stemmed from more than two decades of “rampant” corruption at FIFA.
“My responsibility and mission is to make sure when at the end of February I come at the end of my career, I can say in FIFA we have started again the reform and to rebuild the reputation of FIFA,” Blatter said in his first public appearance since saying he would step down.
Platini, the head of European governing body UEFA, is pondering whether to stand, his spokesman Pedro Pinto told reporters, after Agence France Presse said he has been lobbied by members of regional ruling bodies over the past 24 hours. The former Blatter ally decided not to run for the post in May after Blatter backtracked on a promise not to stand for a fifth term.
“Michel has done a first-class job at UEFA,” said former Manchester United Chief Executive Officer David Gill, a FIFA vice president and member of the executive committee. “He is a football man, he has the experience and, like any good leader, he has a lot of good people around him because you cannot do it alone.”
Platini is the favorite for the post at U.K. bookmaker William Hill Plc. The Frenchman has 4-5 odds to win, meaning a successful $5 bet returns $4 plus the original stake. His nearest challenger is Prince Ali bin al-Hussein at 7-4.
In addition to the election, FIFA’s leaders also discussed enhanced background checks for executive committee members, the introduction of term limits, higher standards of governance at regional and national bodies, and a plan to reveal executive pay. Blatter today declined twice to reveal his pay package.
All the measures were rejected during a previous reform program that ended in 2013.
A 10-member task force led by an independent appointee and made up of officials from soccer’s six regional bodies will present to the board on Sept. 24 and 25. Any changes will need to be ratified by FIFA’s full membership when it meets to elect the new president in February.
Transparency International, a group that once advised FIFA on corporate governance reforms, said the measures “fall far short of what is required to clean out corruption at FIFA and its associations.”
“This will not be sufficient to win back trust in FIFA,” it said in a statement.
Blatter’s opponent in the last election, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, said the FIFA president should step down immediately.
Monday’s meeting returned executives to Zurich, where seven were led out of a luxury hotel into police cars on May 27. The U.S. charges, which include racketeering, money laundering and tax evasion, prompted Blatter to pledge that he would step down just four days after being re-elected.
February is later than the date preferred by UEFA.
Platini, should he decide to run, may face opposition in the election including FIFA’s honorary vice president, South Korea’s Chung Mong-Joon. Ali has also not made a public statement on his plans.
The scandal led Blatter to avoid events he would normally attend, such as the women’s World Cup in Canada. He will leave Switzerland for the first time since his re-election to attend Saturday’s draw for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
There is pressure for FIFA to open up the reform process to outside oversight.
Coca-Cola Co., which with Adidas is FIFA’s oldest sponsor with an unbroken relationship dating back more than four decades, said on Friday it advocated a third-party commission led by “one or more eminent, impartial leaders.”
The group said former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan was “open” to taking a leadership role in any independent reform commission. Annan’s office said there had been no formal offer and it was unlikely he had the time to take on the role.
Former FIFA Vice President Jeffrey Webb on Saturday pleaded not guilty to corruption charges in New York after agreeing to be extradited to the U.S. Six others arrested with him before FIFA’s Congress in May remain in Switzerland, which is conducting a separate investigation into possible impropriety surrounding the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said there would probably be more arrests in the American case, while Swiss authorities say they’ve discovered 81 suspicious bank transactions linked to FIFA officials.