Outgoing Fifa president Sepp Blatter says he is moving forward with a “comprehensive programme of reform” for world football’s governing body. It comes after a tumultuous nine days for his organisation, amid claims of “systemic and deep-rooted” corruption. Seven Fifa officials were held in a dawn raid last week in Zurich as they gathered for a congress which saw Mr Blatter re-elected for a fifth term.
Four days later, Mr Blatter announced he would step down early from the post. He said he would remain at work until Fifa had chosen his successor in the coming months. As part of an indictment alleging widespread corruption within Fifa over a period exceeding two decades, the US Department of Justice has charged 14 Fifa officials and associates, including the seven held in Zurich by Swiss police at the behest of US authorities. There are no charges against Mr Blatter himself.
Thursday saw several developments in the story:
- Former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner, one of those indicted by the US justice department, said he would release an “avalanche” of evidence relating to Fifa’s financial transactions
- Police in South Africa launched a preliminary inquiry into allegations that officials paid bribes to help secure the 2010 World Cup
- The Football Association of Ireland said Fifa had paid it 5m euros to stop legal action over Thierry Henry’s handball in Ireland’s World Cup play-off defeat by France in 2009
- UK Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said England was ready to host the 2022 World Cup if Qatar was stripped of the tournament
In a statement issued on Thursday evening from Fifa HQ in Zurich, Mr Blatter reported that he had held a “a good, constructive meeting to establish a framework for action and a timetable” with Domenico Scala, chairman of the organisation’s audit and compliance committee.
The statement added that “president Blatter and Mr Scala are now working on the process to instigate meaningful reform of the administration and structure of Fifa”.
It further quoted Mr Blatter as saying: “I want a comprehensive programme of reform and I am very aware that only the Fifa congress can pass these reforms. Furthermore, the executive committee has a particular duty to share the responsibility of driving this process.” Mr Blatter tweeted a picture of himself “working hard at reforms“.
Jack Warner: The US charge sheet
- Accused of racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering, bribery
- From the early 1990s, he allegedly “began to leverage his influence and exploit his official positions for personal gain”
- Allegedly accepted a $10m bribe from South African officials in return for voting to award them the 2010 World Cup
- Allegedly bribed officials with envelopes each containing $40,000 in cash; when one demurred, he allegedly said: “There are some people here who think they are more pious than thou. If you’re pious, open a church, friends. Our business is our business”
Another former top Fifa official and key witness, American Chuck Blazer, has admitted accepting bribes. The US justice department alleges the 14 people charged worldwide accepted bribes and kickbacks estimated at more than $150m (£97m) over a 24-year period. Four others have already been charged, including Mr Blazer.
Mr Warner’s address came hours after the details of Mr Blazer’s 2013 plea bargain came to light, including the admission that he and other officials had accepted bribes in connection with the 2010 World Cup bid, which saw the tournament awarded to South Africa. Mr Blazer was the second highest official in Fifa’s North and Central American and Caribbean region (Concacaf) from 1990 to 2011 – serving as general secretary while Mr Warner was president – and also served on Fifa’s executive committee between 1997 and 2013.
In addition to the US case, Swiss authorities have launched a criminal investigation into how the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively. A law enforcement official quoted by Reuters news agency said the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in addition to examining events during Mr Blazer’s time at the helm of Concacaf, was also looking into how the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded. Both countries have denied any wrongdoing in the bidding process.
The authorities in Qatar say they are confident they will not be stripped of their right to host the 2022 tournament, BBC reports.