ZURICH - FIFA president Sepp Blatter,
facing a deepening corruption scandal including accusations that
Qatar bought the right to stage the 2022 World Cup, denied there
was a crisis and described the problems as local difficulties on
Blatter began a week in which he should be re-elected as
president for a fourth term in combative mood, berating media
for their lack of manners and giving Qatar his public backing.
FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke earlier issued a
statement denying he meant to suggest anything corrupt about the
Qatar bid for 2022.
While all the talk outside FIFA House has been of a
drip-feed of corruption allegations creating the worst crisis
the game has faced, Blatter said his organisation was merely
experiencing local difficulties they could solve internally.
It did not feel that way earlier in the day when CONCACAF
president Jack Warner made public an email in which Valcke
wondered if Mohamed bin Hammam, who planned to stand against
Blatter, thought he could buy the presidency as Qatar "bought"
the World Cup.
Qatar issued a flat denial of any wrongdoing and Valcke
later said he only meant that the Gulf state's financial muscle
meant they were able to mount an effective lobbying campaign.
Qatar received further support from Blatter at his dramatic
evening news conference, with the president saying FIFA had
received no evidence that there were issues with the process to
choose the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Blatter, the 75-year-old Swiss who has run football's world
governing body since 1998 and seen it grow wealthy on the sale
of TV rights and sponsorship, will run unopposed in Wednesday's
election following Bin Hammam's withdrawal on Sunday.
That came hours before the Qatari was suspended along with
Warner over an allegation that Bin Hammam paid Caribbean
delegates $40,000 to vote for him instead of Blatter.
Blatter said he regretted the recent "damaging" allegations
but said the problems could be solved in-house.
"Football is not in a crisis," said Blatter. "Football is in
some difficulties and they will be solved inside our family."
FIFA sponsors also reacted to the controversy.
"Adidas has a very long and successful partnership with
FIFA, which we are also looking forward to continue," an Adidas
"Having said that, the negative tonality of the public
debate surrounding FIFA is neither good for football nor for
FIFA and its partners."
Turning to other allegations, Blatter said there was no case
to answer against four FIFA Executive Committee members accused
of corruption during a British parliamentary hearing this month.
Blatter also said there had been no evidence from the Sunday
Times newspaper over a claim that Issa Hayatou and Jacques
Anouma had been paid to vote for Qatar's 2022 World Cup bid.
Last November, executive committee members Reynald Temarii
and Amos Adamu were banned for agreeing to sell their votes to
undercover newspaper reporters, the first in what turned out to
be a wave of allegations.
Blatter, cleared by a FIFA Ethics Committee on Sunday,
distanced himself from his executive committee, whose members
are elected by their respective confederations rather than from
within FIFA itself.
Blatter has faced down challenges to his position before,
notably in 2002 when secretary general Michel Zen-Ruffinen
claimed his 1998 election victory was based on bribery and
Blatter subsequently won re-election and Zen-Ruffinen was
soon out of a job.
Five years later, he was elected unopposed for a third term.
While the last six months have been the most turbulent of
his reign, he is on course to get the fourth term he said during
the campaign would be his last.
The recent problems stem from last year's World Cup votes,
when Russia saw off opposition from England and joint-bids from
Netherlands-Belgium and Spain-Portugal for 2018 and Qatar got
the 2022 nod over Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United
Bin Hammam, who is appealing against the decision to suspend
him, dismissed the allegation that he had handed over money in
exchange for votes.
"You would have to ask Jerome Valcke what he was thinking,"
he told the BBC. "If I was paying money from Qatar you would
also have to ask the 13 people who voted for Qatar."
Questioned by reporters on Sunday, Valcke agreed that FIFA
was facing "a watershed moment", drawing comparisons with the
International Olympic Committee's crisis when IOC delegates were
found guilty of taking bribes for votes to award the 2002 Winter
Games to Salt Lake City.
British sports minister Hugh Robertson said FIFA should bow
to growing international pressure and bring about internal
"Even if you consider that FIFA lives in an ivory tower you
could not help but notice the clamour around the world for
change at the moment," he said.
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