Blatter pledges to restore FIFA’s image

Sepp Blatter said rebuilding FIFA’s image would be his top
priority if he is re-elected as president next week after a series
of corruption allegations leveled at soccer’s ruling body.

Blatter told reporters of his firsthand experience of attempted
bribery when he received a cash-filled envelope while FIFA
secretary general before becoming president 13 years ago. He said
he handed over the money to a FIFA colleague and it was returned to
the unnamed bribe-giver.

He promised to tackle allegations of past corruption and
strengthen FIFA’s panels that investigate alleged wrongdoing.

”We shall find a solution how to handle the past … in order
that we can stop forever in the future all these damaging things
about corruption,” Blatter said.

”We have to make sure that in the next term of office
immediately starting after the election that we rebuild the image
of FIFA,” said the 75-year-old Swiss, who joined soccer’s
governing body in 1975.

Blatter pledged ”there will be facts” revealed in his
zero-tolerance project being presented to the FIFA Congress on June
1, immediately before his election contest against former ally
Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar.

Their campaign has been clouded by fresh allegations of World
Cup bid corruption.

Bin Hammam’s native Qatar has been accused in England of bribing
two FIFA executive committee members to help secure 2022 hosting
rights.

Blatter, who wants the case resolved before election day, said
it hurt him that people believed FIFA was corrupt.

His first presidential election in 1998 prompted allegations of
vote-buying by his supporters in Paris, and some high-ranking
colleagues have been linked to corruption scandals on his
watch.

Senior FIFA officials have been accused of taking kickbacks from
television rights deals, profiting from World Cup tickets sales and
pocketing or seeking bribes to vote for World Cup hosts.

Though retrospective disciplinary action is unlikely, Blatter
said he wants to improve FIFA’s ability to investigate internal
affairs.

”For the future we must have, I would say, a stronger
organization,” he said at a briefing at FIFA headquarters.

Responsibility for choosing leaders of FIFA’s ethics,
disciplinary and appeal committees could be given to members at
Congress, Blatter suggested. Currently, power to appoint the
investigative positions lies with FIFA’s 24-member executive
committee, which has been severely discredited.

Blatter acknowledged that some people ”do not deserve to be …
in the government of FIFA.”

He distanced himself from the continental bodies who elect their
delegates to the ruling panel he chairs.

”They have their own agenda. I have no influence and I cannot
take any responsibility,” said Blatter, lamenting that he erred in
”trusting people too fast.”

Blatter said he was only once offered a bribe, during his
1981-98 stint serving as chief administrator to then-president Joao
Havelange.

”In this envelope there was an amount of money. I couldn’t
refuse because he put it in my pocket,” said Blatter, declining to
identify who made the offer. ”I came home here to FIFA and gave it
to the finance director and he put this money on the account of the
Swiss Bank Corporation.”

The cash, which Blatter has said amounted to 50,000 Swiss
francs, was later withdrawn by the bribe-giver.