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.