SBD/June 12, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

FIFA's Blatter Declares Intention To Run For Fifth Term As He Reneges On Prior Words

Blatter will wait until after the World Cup to make an official announcement
FIFA President Sepp Blatter yesterday in a speech to a congress of soccer’s top officials "all but declared his intention to run for a fifth term," according to Andrew Das of the N.Y. TIMES. Blatter said his "mission is not finished." He "has put off an official announcement of his candidacy for another four-year term until after the World Cup, but he sent his strongest signal yet that he would run when he told the FIFA Congress in São Paulo" about his intentions. The reputations of Blatter and FIFA "have been battered in recent months by revelations of corruption in the bidding for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which have increased the pressure on Blatter, 78, to step aside." Several top UEFA officials "openly called on Blatter on Tuesday to decline to run in next year’s election." They pointed out that in '11, when he was "elected unanimously to a fourth term in a vote later found to have been rife with vote-buying and influence-peddling, he had promised to retire" by '15. UEFA "appears to be alone among FIFA’s six confederations in its opposition to another term" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/12). The GUARDIAN's Owen Gibson reports FIFA "voted down attempts to consider age and term limits for its executives, in a move that could allow" Blatter to continue as president indefinitely. The referendum "required a simple majority to take the proposals forward to next year’s FIFA congress, where they would have needed the backing of 75% of members to be adopted." Both "were rejected out of hand" (GUARDIAN, 6/12).

ENRAGED IN ENGLAND: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Cowley & Lyons write Blatter's tenure "at the top could be in trouble." This week, criticism "erupted from top European soccer officials" such as UEFA exec member Michael Van Praag and England FA Vice Chair David Gill. Both men urged Blatter not to seek re-election "saying the organization's credibility was at stake." Meanwhile, former FA Chair Lord David Triesman yesterday "used parliamentary privilege in the U.K. to lambast FIFA and Blatter in particular" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/12). In London, Ben Rumsby notes Triesman "stepped up his attack on the governing body, claiming attempts by Blatter to dismiss" corruption allegations surrounding the '22 World Cup "was a tactic that would have been approved by movie Godfather Don Corleone." Triesman: "FIFA, I'm afraid, behaves like a mafia family. It has a decades-long tradition of bribes, bungs and corruption." Triesman "applauded the stand taken by current FA chairman Greg Dyke against the 'grotesque' accusation by Blatter that media investigations into corruption at FIFA were racist" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/12). Also in London, James Ducker notes UEFA President Michel Platini "gave his backing to a European revolt against" Blatter as the pressure on the FIFA president "intensified on the eve of the World Cup." Dyke claimed that FIFA's image has "become 'severely damaged' and expressed dismay at Blatter’s decision to renege on his original pledge to step aside as FIFA president once his fourth term ends next year" (LONDON TIMES, 6/12).

INVESTIGATIVE INSIGHTS: FIFA Chief Investigator Michael Garcia -- a former U.S. prosecutor -- yesterday said that he "would review fresh information related to his investigation into the bidding processes" for the '18 and '22 World Cups, but "won't delay his final report." He said that his team has "examined the reports and related documents, and said that the 'majority of that material has been available to us for some time, since well before the recent wave of news reports.'" He said that he has "gone to 'what appears to be the original source' of that data, and will review all of the information before issuing a final report" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/12). Garcia said that he "had spoken to a representative of every one of the bidding committees involved" in the '22 vote (London INDEPENDENT, 6/12). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Cowley noted Blatter yesterday "called for more integrity and better governance in the sport, as he sought to head off mounting allegations of mismanagement and corruption." Blatter: "It is our duty to keep football going forward but also to keep our governance and our control bodies installed. It is our duty to lead by example and behave like an example, with integrity" (WSJ.com, 6/11).

FLEXING ITS MUSCLES: In Columbus, Michael Arace wrote under the header, "FIFA Gives Black Eye To International Soccer." The "dizzying rate of salacious stories has deadened the senses of soccer fans" and it is "difficult to keep track." FIFA "uses strong-arm tactics to extract tax relief, change laws and even implement temporary judicial systems in host countries." It "holds the world’s most powerful sport hostage, operates without transparency, is corrupt beyond belief" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 6/11). The FINANCIAL TIMES' John Gapper writes FIFA is a "corporate governance disaster that is also one of the most successful multinational enterprises on earth" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/12). HBO's John Oliver, who bashed FIFA over the weekend, was on NBC's "Late Night" and host Seth Meyers said, "You basically called out FIFA for being probably the most corrupt organization." Oliver: "FIFA is awful, but the products they push are amazing" ("Late Night," NBC, 6/11). 
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