Pressure Mounts on Blatter Amid German Backlash, Calls for his Resignation
(ATR) Scrutiny of Sepp Blatter's leadership of FIFA is intensifying following comments he made to SonntagsBlick
on Sunday and calls from Football Supporters Europe for him to resign as president.
In an interview with the Swiss newspaper on Sunday, Blatter appeared to imply that the FIFA vote to award the 2006 World Cup to Germany could have been influenced by bribery.
Blatter was reportedly questioned about the rumours of corruption that swirled around FIFA's votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar.
"World Cups being purchased…. I am reminded of the World Cup allotment for 2006, when someone left the room at the last moment," he hit back in comments carried by Der Spiegel
newspaper. "And instead of 10:10, the vote was suddenly 10:9 in favour of Germany…. Perhaps in that situation also I was too well-meaning and naïve."
His comments outraged the World Cup 2006 organising committee chief Franz Beckenbauer, a former FIFA ExCo member and leader of FIFA's Taskforce 2014, and his replacement on the executive, Theo Zwanziger.
Former FIFA director of competitions Guido Tognoni was quoted by the German paper as telling German TV this morning: "Sepp Blatter was always there. If Sepp Blatter now accuses the Germans of anything, then they apply to him as well.
"To make accusations now is rather cheap I feel. The fact is, things have happened during Sepp Blatter's FIFA presidency that shouldn't have happened."
Last week's revelations that Blatter knew of bribery payments to his predecessor João Havelange from FIFA's now-defunct marketing agency ISL are the latest blow to the 76-year-old's reputation. He defended the payments saying: “Back then, such payments could even be deducted from tax as a business expense."
On Saturday, FIFA's director of communications and public Affairs, Walter de Gregorio, felt it necessary to issue a statement defending Blatter following a front-page report in the Swiss Tages-Anzeiger
newspaper headlined “Sepp Blatter justifies corruption at FIFA”.
"The FIFA President has never condoned corruption or justified such a crime and never will," he said.
He added: "To say that the legal situation in Switzerland has changed is not an opinion but a statement of fact, one that should in no way be interpreted as an excuse or a justification.
"If we are to judge past events however, we cannot and should not overlook the context. In that respect, the Tages-Anzeiger is being dishonest in trying to imply things from Blatter’s words. Justification implies approval, but here the exact opposite is the case."
Fans Want Blatter Out
Football Supporters Europe unanimously adopted a resolution calling for Blatter to resign in the wake of the latest revelations in the ISL scandal.
The motion was passed at a meeting of Football Supporters Europe at its annual European Football Fans’ Congress in Istanbul/Turkey from July 13-15.
The independent network of football supporters represents more than three million football supporters in 41 countries. Around 500 people from 32 countries registered for the three day event that was hosted by fans groups from rival clubs Fenerbahce, Besiktas and Galatasaray who worked together for the first time.
IOC to Discuss Blatter/Havelange Roles in Scandal
Meanwhile, Blatter has tried to distance himself from Joao Havelange after it was confirmed in Swiss court documents that the 96-year-old had received a payment from ISL of about $1 million in 1997. He was succeeded as FIFA president by Sepp Blatter the following year.
Having applauded the work of the Brazilian at this year's FIFA Congress in Budapest, in a major U-turn Blatter now says Havelange should be stripped of his honorary presidency of FIFA.
Blatter last week admitted he had no power to strip Havelange of his title, saying only the congress could decide his future. It could be a decision made at the 2013 FIFA Congress in Mauritius at which several other reforms under Blatter's bid to clean-up his tarnished federation are slated to be discussed.
IOC president Jacques Rogge said today that the fall-out from the ISL scandal would be discussed at this weekend's executive board meeting in London. Blatter has been an IOC member since 1999. Havelange resigned from the IOC last year shortly before a ruling on whether he received ISL kickbacks in the 1990s while he was FIFA president.
FIFA's reforms program, which has stalled due to delays in appointing two new ethics committee chairmen, may get back on track when their names are announced after a FIFA Executive Committee meeting on Tuesday. Whether they will decide to investigate past cases of FIFA corruption or the bribery allegations that blackened the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding race remains to be seen.
By INSIDER Editor and
Around the Rings European Editor Mark Bisson
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