FIFA corruption storm rages on

2015-06-03 14:09
Sepp Blatter (AFP)

Zurich - Sepp Blatter's shock resignation as FIFA president failed Wednesday to quell the corruption storm surrounding football's world body that now even threatens to touch him.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is now looking into Blatter's role in tens of millions of dollars of bribes given to football officials, according to US media.

Interpol meanwhile put six other suspects, including two former FIFA executive members, on its most wanted list.

Critics of the 79-year-old Swiss official rejoiced at his thunderbolt announcement on Tuesday that he would stand down as soon as an election can be held to find a successor.

His decision sparked a global race to take over as head of the world's richest and most powerful sporting federation.

South Korean tycoon Chung Mong-Joon, Prince Ali bin al Hussein, who was beaten by Blatter in a vote last Friday, and Brazilian football legend Zico all said they could take part. Most eyes remain on Michel Platini, the UEFA president who has not given a hint of his plans.

But Platini did call off a meeting of the European confederation to discuss the FIFA crisis in Berlin on Saturday because of the "uncertain and unpredictable events" surrounding the world body.

Blatter, who has ruled FIFA for 17 years, won a fifth term in an election on Friday. but renewed criticism of his reign and new corruption revelations about FIFA forced him into a corner.

"While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football - the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football," he told a press conference late Tuesday to explain his decision.- Who flips first? -

Blatter vowed that in his remaining months in office he would "focus on driving far-reaching, fundamental reforms that transcend our previous efforts."

US authorities have charged 14 football officials and sports company executives over more than $150 million in bribes. US Attorney General Loretta Lynch refused Wednesday to comment on reports that Blatter is also a FBI target.

The New York Times, which broke news of seven arrests before the FIFA congress last week, quoted law enforcement officials and other sources to back their report that the FIFA chief is now in line.

ABC News said Blatter was part of the larger probe that led to the arrest of seven FIFA officials in a luxury Swiss hotel last Wednesday.

"Now that people are going to want to save themselves, there's probably a race to see who will flip on (Blatter) first," one source told ABC News.

"We are not able to comment further on the nature of other individuals who may or may not be," Lynch told reporters at a meeting in the Latvia capital Riga.

Acting on a US request, Interpol on Wednesday put disgraced FIFA former executive members Jack Warner and Nicolas Leoz on their most wanted list and issued an international alert.

Four heads of sports marketing companies have also been put on the list. All six are among the 14 wanted by US authorities.

Warner, a former FIFA vice president, is in Trinidad and Tobago. Leoz, an executive member, is reportedly under house arrest in his native Paraguay.

In parallel to the US inquiry, Swiss prosecutors are looking into the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar. Both countries said they are carrying on with their preparations.

Blatter's resignation resonated around the world. German tabloid Bild had a front page headline "Blatter Get Out!"

UEFA's Platini, a former ally who last week told Blatter to his face that he should leave, said: "It was a difficult decision, a brave decision, and the right decision."

"He's not been honourable in years. Now he's gone - let's celebrate," declared English Football Association chief Greg Dyke.

Brazilian legend Pele called for "honest people" to clean up the game, while New Zealand Football made it clear that Blatter was not welcome at the Under-20 World Cup currently being held there.

"These allegations are hotting up, they're getting closer and closer to him," NZF chief executive Andy Martin said.

Key sponsors said FIFA still has a lot of work to do to clear its name.

Coca-Cola called the move "a positive step for the good of sport, football and its fans".

South Korean auto group Hyundai-Kia urged FIFA now to create "a governance structure that ensures the highest ethical standards for the sport".

Credit card giant Visa, which had warned it might withdraw its sponsorship, said Blatter's resignation was "a significant first step" but added: "More work lies ahead."

A special congress to choose Blatter's replacement cannot be held before December, according to Domenico Scala, chairperson of FIFA's independent audit and compliance committee.

Among possible contenders for the presidency are South Korean Chung, a scion of the Hyundai dynasty, and Prince Ali of Jordan who stood against Blatter in last Friday's vote. Both are former FIFA vice presidents.

Brazil's football great of the 1970s and 80s Zico said he was also considering a run. Other potential replacements include Platini and former Portuguese international Luis Figo.

Read more on:    fifa  |  sepp blatter  |  soccer  |  fifa bribery scandal

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