Sepp Blatter to Resign as FIFA President – NYTimes.com
Sepp Blatter, who led world soccer’s governing body for 17 years and had just won re-election for a fifth four-year term, resigned his position at a hastily called news conference in Zurich on Tuesday evening in the wake of an international corruption inquiry.
In a short speech delivered at the headquarters of FIFA, which oversees global soccer, Mr. Blatter said that “FIFA needs a profound restructuring” and that he had decided to step away from the organization for which he had worked in various positions for 40 years. Mr. Blatter, 79, who spoke in French, then referred to his recent re-election by FIFA’s 209 member nations when he said, “Although the members of FIFA have given me the new mandate, this mandate does not seem to be supported by everybody in the world of football.”
Mr. Blatter’s resignation is not immediate; according to Domenico Scala, the independent chairman of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee, who spoke to the news media after Mr. Blatter, a special meeting of FIFA’s member nations will be called to elect a new president. According to FIFA’s rules, there must be at least four months’ notice given to members for such a meeting, so Mr. Scala indicated that the likely window for a new election is from December 2015 to March 2016.
Mr. Blatter will continue his duties in the meantime, but will focus on a program of reform that he said would be driven by Mr. Scala.
“For years, we have worked hard to put in place administrative reforms, but it is plain to me that while these must continue, they are not enough,” Mr. Blatter said. “We need deep-rooted structural change.”
Mr. Blatter mentioned several components of reform that he found necessary, including a reshaping of the powerful executive committee. In a somewhat strange twist, given his lengthy presence as FIFA’s leader, he also noted the importance of term limits.
Mr. Scala, in his remarks, said “nothing will be off the table” in terms of reforms for FIFA, whose image has been undeniably marred by the seemingly constant shadow of controversy. Changes could include a greater focus on transparency — including publishing the compensation earned by the president and executive committee members — as well as more stringent and uniform integrity checks, a proposal which had been previously suggested, and rejected, by members.
“There is significant work to be done in order to regain the trust of the public and to fundamentally reform the way in which people see FIFA,” Mr. Scala said. “These steps will ensure that the organization cannot be used by those seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of the game.”
Pressure on Mr. Blatter mounted in recent days, beginning even before Friday’s FIFA Congress, at which he was re-elected. Two days before the election, Swiss police officials — acting on behalf of United States authorities — arrested several top soccer officials, including two FIFA vice presidents, at a five-star Zurich hotel, and the United States Department of Justice handed down a 47-count indictment alleging widespread corruption within the organization. The Swiss police also revealed that day that a separate investigation, which is focused on alleged improprieties involving the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments, had led investigators to seize documents and records from FIFA’s offices.
Mr. Blatter was not directly implicated in either investigation, but The New York Times reported late Monday that Mr. Blatter’s top deputy, Jérôme Valcke, had been identified by American officials as a person linked to wire transfers involving bank payments believed to be bribes related to World Cup bids. Mr. Valcke denied any involvement, and FIFA released a statement on Tuesday morning in response to the article that tried to distance Mr. Valcke from the transaction.
Early Tuesday evening, however, it was not Mr. Valcke who stepped to the microphone in the press briefing room. Instead it was Mr. Blatter, who just days earlier had promised that “I will be in command of this boat called FIFA and we will bring it back to shore.”