FIFA's Next President Might Not Be an Improvement on Blatter

  • African soccer head Issa Hayatou could be temporary leader
  • Hayatou's past clouded by accusations of wrongdoing too

If embattled FIFA president Joseph "Sepp" Blatter leaves his post before the end of his term, the organization would be placed in the hands of another executive with a checkered ethical record.

Blatter, who has led FIFA since 1998, could be suspended after the raid on his office by Swiss prosecutors on Friday. The Swiss officials questioned him and UEFA head Michel Platini about several large payments in connection with a widening bribery scandal. 

Blatter has said he will resign his post in February, but if he is forced out sooner, the most senior of FIFA’s vice presidents, African soccer official Issa Hayatou, would take over, bringing with him a new history of scandal. The head of African soccer since 1988, Hayatou was reprimanded in 2011 by the International Olympic Committee for receiving improper payments from FIFA’s then-marketing partner. He has also been accused by London’s Sunday Times newspaper of seeking payments before the controversial decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, claims he denies.

Critics say FIFA’s reputation -- already suffering from the May arrests of 14 officials and this month’s suspension of Secretary General Jerome Valcke-- would be further damaged by appointment of an internal candidate.

“Would Hayatou pass the kind of integrity checks that would be required of the presidential candidates?” said Deborah Unger, a manager at Berlin-based Transparency International, part of a pressure group that’s been pushing for FIFA to reform for several years. “FIFA should submit him to those integrity checks.”

Hayatou didn’t respond to a request for comment sent to the African soccer body CAF, and hasn’t commented since Swiss authorities accused Blatter of criminal mismanagement and misappropriation. He’s not yet said if he will enter February’s election for Blatter’s permanent replacement.

For Hayatou to be elevated to the presidency, Blatter would have to resign early or FIFA’s ethics committee would have to suspend him. The group’s investigatory arm is also looking into the leading candidate to replace him in the long term, France’s Platini, following allegations Blatter made an illicit payment to the European soccer head in 2011.

Platini has said the payment related to work he carried out for FIFA, but his bid is now in danger, raising the chances of Prince Ali bin al-Hussein. The Jordanian prince challenged Blatter in May, taking him to a second-round vote before pulling out of the race. Over the weekend, Ali again called for "new leadership that can restore the credibility of FIFA. We cannot change the past, but we can have a future where FIFA member associations are able to focus on football rather than worrying about the next scandal or criminal investigation involving FIFA leadership.”

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