Sepp Blatter, FIFA facing more criticism this week
LONDON (AP) In the House of Commons, they’re calling for Sepp Blatter’s head. And even inside the FIFA president’s own executive committee, there is the threat of resignation.
A new week has brought new turmoil for soccer’s embattled 79-year-old president and his scandal-tainted governing body, which is in the midst of the worst corruption case in its 111-year history.
”For the good of the game, it is time for Sepp Blatter to go,” British sports and culture secretary John Whittingdale told the House of Commons on Monday.
While the newly re-elected Blatter seems to be going nowhere despite the arrests and indictments of several soccer officials last week in Zurich, others are calling it quits or threatening to do so.
FIFA medical chief Michel D’Hooghe, the longest-serving member on the executive committee, said he would leave unless there were rapid reforms.
”I cannot reconcile myself with an institution where I work, where I have carried the medical responsibility for 27 years and about which I now learn that there is a lot of corruption,” D’Hooghe told the VRT television network in Belgium.
”My conclusion is very clear: I will no longer continue to participate (in FIFA) under such conditions. So, it is high time for change to come and we will see over the coming days what may happen. Let’s be clear, if this atmosphere prevails at FIFA, I have no place there.”
D’Hooghe has served on FIFA’s ruling body since 1988, a decade before Blatter’s move up from secretary general to president.
”If you are faced with an abscess, simple medication does not suffice,” D’Hooghe said. ”You have to cut it open.”
Heather Rabbatts went a step further and resigned from her post on the FIFA anti-discrimination task force.
That body, until last week, was chaired by Jeffrey Webb, who was suspended as a FIFA vice president and remains in custody in Switzerland along with six others after being arrested as part of the U.S. corruption investigation.
Rabbatts is also a director at the English Football Association, a long-standing critic of Blatter.
”Like many in the game I find it unacceptable that so little has been done to reform FIFA,” she wrote in a letter to FIFA. ”And it is clear from the re-election of President Blatter that the challenges facing FIFA and the ongoing damage to the reputation of football’s world governing body are bound to continue to overshadow and undermine the credibility of any work in the anti-discrimination arena and beyond.”
The corruption scandal crept closer to FIFA’s Zurich headquarters when The New York Times reported late Monday that U.S. law enforcement officials believe the high-ranking FIFA member mentioned in the indictment as having made a $10-million payment central to the investigation was Blatter’s right-hand man, Jerome Valcke.
The report cited unidentified officials who believe Valcke, FIFA’s secretary general, transferred the money in 2008 to accounts controlled by Jack Warner, the former CONCACAF president and FIFA vice president. That payment was allegedly made in exchange for Warner and others having voted to give the 2010 World Cup to South Africa.
FIFA said the payment, which South African officials have said was meant to help with soccer development in the Caribbean, was authorized by the then-finance committee chairman, per FIFA regulations. The chairman, Julio Grondona, died last year.
The debate in Britain, where Blatter faces some of his harshest criticism, made its way to Parliament on Monday, and Whittingdale wasn’t alone in his condemnation of the FIFA president.
Chris Bryant, the sports spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, said Blatter was a ”tainted leader of a corrupt organization” who was re-elected because of ”Mafioso cronyism.”
FIFA on Monday provisionally banned another soccer official – CONCACAF General Secretary Enrique Sanz – as its ethics committee assesses evidence from the U.S. criminal investigation.
An unidentified co-conspirator listed in last week’s indictment fit the description of Sanz’ work history. Sanz, who has been battling leukemia, was placed on a leave of absence by CONCACAF on Thursday.
Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris