Sepp Blatter Reelected To Fourth Term As FIFA President By Wide Margin
Sepp Blatter yesterday was "reelected to a fourth term as president of FIFA" after the governing body's 208 member countries gave him a "new four-year mandate in a lopsided 186-17 vote," according to Grahame Jones of the L.A. TIMES. Blatter said prior to the vote, "I am the captain of the ship and we are weathering the storm. Our ship is in troubled water and this is why we need to put the ship back on course -- and for that we need a leader." Following the vote, Blatter said, "We are going to put FIFA's ship back on the right course, in clear, transparent waters. We will need some time; we cannot do it from one day to the next." Jones notes Blatter's supporters "successfully rebuffed a last-minute attempt by England to postpone the vote." The delegates "reacted with what appeared to be an orchestrated attack on England by Blatter supporters that was remarkable for its ferocity." Meanwhile, the "only substantive" change announced by FIFA yesterday "was that future World Cup hosts, starting in 2026, would be voted on by the 208 members of FIFA, not the 24-man executive committee." But "even that concession had a catch," as the Exec Committee will decide "the list of candidates" (L.A. TIMES, 6/2). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Futterman & Revill note the election "caps a bizarre week of charges and countercharges that climaxed with Mr. Blatter promising to revamp an organization he has dominated since becoming president in 1998." But IOC member Dick Pound, who led the investigation into Salt Lake City's bid for the '02 Games, said that FIFA's statements "showed it wasn't prepared for serious reform." Pound: "It's like dealing with an alcoholic. The first thing they have to do is admit they have a drinking problem, and I'm not sure we're really seeing anything like that at the moment" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/2). The FINANCIAL TIMES' Roger Blitz notes measures proposed by Blatter yesterday included strengthening FIFA's Exec Committee and "using consultants from outside FIFA." Blatter also said that the organization "should call a one-day extraordinary Congress to tackle the corruption issues and 'to stop the ugly insinuations'" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/2). Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger will "help investigate problems within" FIFA. Blatter said that Kissinger "has agreed to be on a 'committee of wise persons' to advice FIFA's new corporate governance and compliance body" (AP, 6/1).
STANDING BY THEIR MAN: In N.Y., Branch & Longman write FIFA "may be a dysfunctional family -- or even a corrupt one, according to some members -- but it is Mr. Blatter's family." FIFA's members "resoundingly stood behind him" in the vote yesterday. Former U.S. Soccer Federation President Alan Rothenberg said, "With everything going on, it's hard to step back. But if the measure of FIFA is the progress of the sport, as president Sepp has been nothing short of extraordinary" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/2). The FINANCIAL TIMES' Blitz writes FIFA "mounted a concerted fightback ... rounding on politicians, journalists and others for interfering in its business" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/2). The GUARDIAN's Matt Scott notes Blatter "loyalists mounted attacks on English press, parliamentarians and football politicians before celebrating his new mandate with a standing ovation" (GUARDIAN, 6/2). In London, Owen Slot writes "all things England were the popular villains" at the FIFA Congress (LONDON TIMES, 6/2).
WHAT ABOUT BLAZER? The L.A. TIMES' Jones notes U.S. FIFA Exec Committee member Chuck Blazer yesterday was fired, then "reinstated, then fired again, and his true position was uncertain Wednesday night" (L.A. TIMES, 6/2).
MCDONALD'S VOICES CONCERNS: In London, Damian Reece reports FIFA sponsor McDonald's has joined Coca-Cola, Visa, adidas and Emirates airline "in expressing concern following the emergence of corruption allegations." McDonald's in a statement said, "We continue to encourage FIFA and its leadership to reform and strengthen the game of football around the world and expect that the current issues will be resolved in the best interest of the game" (TELEGRAPH.co.uk, 6/2). Blatter yesterday said that he "spoke to two" of the concerned sponsors (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/2). Reece writes, "When hard-nosed businesses such as these are embarrassed into public comment, the alarm bells should really be ringing in FIFA's Swiss HQ" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/2).
SAME OLD PROBLEMS: In London, Paul Kelso writes the proposed changes put forth by Blatter yesterday are "partial solutions to the major issues that FIFA faces." Kelso: "With the entire reform process kept in-house there can be little cause for confidence" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/2). In London, David Aaronovitch writes, "This week's crisis is welcome. The Blatters of this world are under scrutiny and can no longer do as they please" (LONDON TIMES, 6/2). In Toronto, Cathal Kelly writes the "overwhelming vote proves FIFA is broken." Kelly: "It must be burned to the ground, and built again" (TORONTO STAR, 6/2). Meanwhile, the FINANCIAL TIMES' Blitz noted UEFA President Michel Platini is "seen by many in the game as the most likely successor" to Blatter. Blitz: "In the maelstrom of FIFA political intrigue this week in Zurich, there has been little opportunity for the governing body's bruised members to devise a road map towards respectability. But in the genial Frenchman there lies perhaps FIFA's best hope" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/1).