FIFA re-elects Sepp Blatter amid scandals

Stung by allegations of mismanagement and corruption, Sepp

Blatter held onto his spot as the leader of world soccer Wednesday,

winning a one-man election derided as a ”coronation.”

The 75-year-old Swiss who has headed the sport virtually

unchallenged for 13 years struck a rare note of humility in a

speech that promised to reform an ethics committee and provide more

transparency in decision-making but was short on specifics.

”We have been hit and I personally have been slapped,” Blatter

told delegates to the sport’s congress. ”I don’t want that ever

again.”

Blatter won a fourth four-year term as head of FIFA, soccer’s

governing body, by receiving 186 out of 203 votes in an election

during the congress in which his was the only name on the ballot.

His sole challenger, Qatari executive committee member Mohamed bin

Hammam, withdrew from the race last weekend amid bribery

allegations.

The election capped a period of several months in which FIFA has

been buffeted by a swirl of corruption allegations, bid scandals,

internal infighting and match-fixing cases that have scarred the

credibility of the organization and the world’s most popular

sport.

The votes in December to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and

the 2022 World Cup to Qatar sparked accusations in the British

Parliament of bribes and other ethical misconduct among FIFA

officials. FIFA said this week there was no evidence to back up

those claims.

Then, last weekend bin Hammam and FIFA vice president Jack

Warner – two of the highest-ranking and most powerful men in the

global game – were suspended pending a full inquiry into

allegations of vote-buying in the Qatari’s bid to unseat Blatter.

Cash bribes of $40,000 were allegedly paid to individual Caribbean

soccer leaders to vote for bin Hammam.

Warner and bin Hammam denied wrongdoing and claimed the

allegations – submitted to FIFA by American executive committee

member Chuck Blazer – were part of a plot by Blatter to wreck the

Qatari’s election bid.

England’s FA chairman David Bernstein called for a postponement

of the election for several months to allow for the corruption

scandals to be cleared up, saying that ”a coronation without an

opponent provides a flawed mandate.” However, 172 of the 208

delegations rejected England’s call.

After his re-election, Blatter immediately sought to prove that

his promise of reform was no trick to turn the vote his way but

genuine signs of change.

”Reforms will be made and not just touchups but radical

decisions,” Blatter said in his speech.

After denying there even was a crisis until late Monday – ”What

is a crisis?” – he was contrite on Wednesday, saying he had

personally talked to two top sponsors to assuage their concerns

over sleaze and corruption.

”We will put FIFA’s ship back on the right course in clear

transparent waters,” he said in French. ”We will need some time.

We cannot do it from one day to the next. It’s a new challenge for

me and I accept it.”

In a major policy shift, Blatter said he wanted future World Cup

hosts to be decided by a vote of all 208 federations instead of

FIFA’s 24 executive committee members, several of whom have been

involved in bribery scandals.

The congress also endorsed his plans to revamp the ethics

committee and bring in more transparency. In addition, Blatter said

he planned to appoint a woman to the executive committee, but again

without voting power.

FIFA will meet again later this year to formally adopt the

measures, by which time Blatter’s intention for fundamental change

should become clearer.

IOC President Jacques Rogge told Blatter on the eve of the

election that only drastic measures to improve democracy and

transparency had saved the Olympic movement when it faced a similar

corruption scandal in the run-up to the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter

Games.

Allegations regarding the 2022 World Cup, in which tiny oil-rich

Qatar defeated the United States in the final round, continue to

dog FIFA.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke wrote in an email that

Qatar ”bought” the 2022 World Cup, though later claimed he was

referring to legitimate lobbying and not bribes.

On Wednesday, German federation president Theo Zwanziger said

Qatar’s victory should be reviewed in light of ”speculations and

corruption allegations.” Qatar has denied any wrongdoing.

Blatter’s re-election underlined once again his sway over the

FIFA ”family.” FIFA doles out millions of dollars in development

and other aid to its 208 member associations, funds that engender

loyalty among the ranks.

National soccer federations also know Blatter is a proven

moneymaker.

FIFA made a $631 million profit in the four years leading up to

the 2010 World Cup, registering $202 million of that in the last

year alone. The four-year financial cycle showed income of $4.19

billion from broadcast and commercial deals, with 87 percent tied

directly to the World Cup.

AP Sports Writers Rob Harris and Graham Dunbar in Zurich and

Nesha Starcevic in Frankfurt contributed to this report.