NEW YORK – FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who said in 2011 he would steer soccer’s ruling body through troubled waters, isn’t anywhere near land.
Brazil is readying for street protests over $3.6 billion of public spending on the 2014 World Cup, which starts in two days in Sao Paulo. About two weeks after the tournament ends, a panel will submit a report into alleged bribery of soccer officials before Qatar was awarded the 2022 edition. Blatter said Monday the accusations were part of a plot to destroy FIFA.
Against that backdrop, at a two-day congress starting in Sao Paulo on Monday, Blatter will ask officials from 209 national associations for their support to stand for a fifth four-year term next year. Three years after saying he wouldn’t stand again, Blatter, 78, said in a video released May 30 his “mission is never finished.”
Harold Mayne-Nicholls, a former FIFA official from Chile, said it’s time for Blatter to take responsibility for what he called errors that preceded the selection of Brazil and Qatar as hosts and stand aside.
“The man who is leading FIFA doesn’t have an ounce of responsibility,” Mayne-Nicholls said in a telephone interview. “You can’t just have someone who hangs on all the time. It’s not healthy.”
Blatter stood unopposed at the last election in 2011 after his only opponent, Mohamed Bin Hammam of Qatar, withdrew a day before he was investigated for offering $40,000 in bribes to voters in the Caribbean. Bin Hammam, who was expelled from the sport, has denied wrongdoing.
So far, former FIFA executive Jerome Champagne is the only candidate to come forward to stand against Blatter. Michel Platini, president of European ruling body UEFA, told L’Equipe newspaper June 5 he will decide in August whether to run.
Blatter hasn’t been accused of corruption and remains popular with officials around the world, according to George Weah, 1995 World Player of the Year who is a FIFA committee member on soccer issues.
“They will vote for him because he’s the one that’s been there,” Weah said by phone from his native Liberia. “He’s a good person, he knows the job.”
The Sunday Times, using leaked emails, has alleged Bin Hammam paid more than $5 million to officials as part of a campaign to influence voters before the 2022 World Cup vote. The U.K. newspaper published a 2010 email in which Weah sent a Bank of America account number in Pembroke Pines, Florida, to the assistant of Bin Hammam.
Weah said Bin Hammam was a “father figure” he had known since 1998 and any interaction was personal and not related to Qatar’s bid. Bin Hammam has denied wrongdoing.
FIFA, under pressure from sponsors, soccer leagues, team executives and fans, voted through a number of corporate governance reforms in 2012 and 2013.
Since then, other scandals have emerged related to historic incidents involving senior FIFA executives including its former president, Joao Havelange. FIFA said Havelange took kickbacks from a now-defunct marketing partner. About one-third of the voters who participated in 2010 in choosing Qatar as a World Cup host have quit or been suspended.
Accusations by the Sunday Times of bribery around the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar are indicative of a plot against FIFA, Blatter said Monday.