WATCH: FIFA boss Sepp Blatter falls on sword after SA’s $10m bribe exposed

The seemingly impregnable head of the global football association, 79-year old Sepp Blatter, has resigned. Less than a week after US authorities swooped on almost a dozen allegedly corrupted FIFA executives, the long serving bossman has fallen on his sword. The “smoking gun” was a $10m bribe which South African soccer officials paid to the head of the Caribbean Football Association Jack Warner whose cohort, former US association head Jack Blazer has turned State Witness. Blazer admitted to receiving $750 000 for his vote. Earlier today evidence emerged that Blatter’s right hand man made the actual transfer of the money. It was supposed to be added to the SA taxpayer funded pool to pay for the cost of hosting the event. Instead, with the full knowledge of the SA football officials (who said it was for Caribbean soccer “development”) it wound up in the bank accounts of Warner and Blazer. At a Press Announcement from the FIFA offices streamed live this evening (see video below), Blatter looked old and tired. His announcement was full of self-justification and promises to fundamentally reform an organisation that desperately requires it. Blatter earlier told the 209 FIFA members of his decision. He refused to take any questions from the media but said an extraordinary congress of FIFA would be called as soon as possible so that his replacement can be appointed. For a full text of his statement, scroll down below. – Alec Hogg

By Brian Homewood

ZURICH, June 2 (Reuters) – Sepp Blatter resigned as FIFA president on Tuesday in the face of a U.S.-led corruption investigation that has plunged world soccer’s governing body into the worst crisis in its history.

Blatter, 79, announced the decision at a news conference in Zurich, six days after the FBI raided a hotel in Zurich and arrested several FIFA officials and just four days after he was re-elected to a fifth term as president.

Blatter said an election to choose a new FIFA president would be held as soon as possible.

“FIFA needs profound restructuring,” he said.

FIFA, ruled over by Blatter since 1998, was rocked this week by the announcement of a U.S. investigation into alleged widespread financial wrongdoing stretching back for years. Swiss authorities mounted their own criminal probe into the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively.

The U.S. Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Blatter initially attempted to bat away the furore, relying on his network of friends to hold onto power at FIFA, which he joined in 1975.

While Blatter was not mentioned in either the U.S. or Swiss investigations, there were widespread calls for him to quit, mostly from Western nations. Some major sponsors also expressed misgivings about the impact of the scandal.

The investigation however closed in on Blatter on Tuesday, when FIFA was forced to deny that his right-hand man, Secretary-General Jerome Valcke, was implicated in a $10 million payment that lies at the heart of the U.S. case.

But at the same time, a letter addressed to Valcke was published outlining the transaction.

Valcke, who has been secretary-general since 2007 and is seen as one of the most powerful men in world sport, had no role in the payments, which were authorised by the chairman of FIFA’s Finance Committee, FIFA said in an earlier statement.

The chairman of the committee at the time of the payments was Argentina’s Julio Grondona, who died last year.

A person familiar with the matter said on Monday that U.S. prosecutors believe Valcke made the $10 million bank transactions which are central to a U.S. bribery investigation against FIFA.

Here’s Blatter’s full statement announcing he will step down as FIFA president:

From African News Agency/Associated Press

ZURICH – “I have been reflecting deeply about my presidency and about the 40 years in which my life has been inextricably bound to FIFA and the great sport of football. I cherish FIFA more than anything and I want to do only what is best for FIFA and for football.

I felt compelled to stand for re-election, as I believed that this was the best thing for the organization. That election is over but FIFA’s challenges are not.

FIFA needs a profound overhaul. While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football – the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at FIFA.

Therefore, I have decided to lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective Congress.

I will continue to exercise my functions as FIFA President until that election. The next ordinary FIFA Congress will take place on 13 May 2016 in Mexico City. This would create unnecessary delay and I will urge the Executive Committee to organize an Extraordinary Congress for the election of my successor at the earliest opportunity.

This will need to be done in line with FIFA’s statutes and we must allow enough time for the best candidates to present themselves and to campaign.

Since I shall not be a candidate, and am therefore now free from the constraints that elections inevitably impose, I shall be able to focus on driving far-reaching, fundamental reforms that transcend our previous efforts.

For years, we have worked hard to put in place administrative reforms, but it is plain to me that while these must continue, they are not enough. The Executive Committee includes representatives of confederations over whom we have no control, but for whose actions FIFA is held responsible. We need deep-rooted structural change.

The size of the Executive Committee must be reduced and its members should be elected through the FIFA Congress. The integrity checks for all Executive Committee members must be organized centrally through FIFA and not through the confederations.

We need term limits not only for the president but for all members of the Executive Committee. I have fought for these changes before and, as everyone knows, my efforts have been blocked. This time, I will succeed. I cannot do this alone.

I have asked Domenico Scala to oversee the introduction and implementation of these and other measures. Mr. Scala is the Independent Chairman of our Audit and Compliance Committee elected by the FIFA Congress.

He is also the Chairman of the ad hoc Electoral Committee and, as such, he will oversee the election of my successor. Mr. Scala enjoys the confidence of a wide range of constituents within and outside of FIFA and has all the knowledge and experience necessary to help tackle these major reforms.

It is my deep care for FIFA and its interests, which I hold very dear, that has led me to take this decision. I would like to thank those who have always supported me in a constructive and loyal manner as President of FIFA and who have done so much for the game that we all love.

What matters to me more than anything is that when all of this is over, football is the winner.”

 

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