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.