Blatter: “These are unprecedented and difficult times for Fifa. The events of yesterday have cast a long shadow over football and over this week’s congress. Actions of individuals, if proven, bring shame and humiliation on football and demand action and change from us all. We can not allow the reputation of Fifa to be dragged through the mud any longer.”
Sepp Blatter is beginning his opening ceremony speech.
You can catch up with all the latest on Fifa here.
Sepp is in the building. https://t.co/OQunYgM0xt
@SeppBlatter arrives at FIFA Congress. Doesn't not respond when asked why he has not resigned
Sepp Blatter has arrived for the opening of the 65th Fifa congress in Zurich. The world’s press are kept well back as a relaxed Blatter puts on his jacket and takes to the red carpet, saying nothing.
David Gill said today that he will step down from Fifa’s executive committee if Sepp Blatter wins Friday’s presidential election. Speaking on Sky News this afternoon, Gill said:
I was delighted when Uefa voted me in. What’s changed my mind? Seismic events yesterday. Joining [Fifa] would be futile and that would not be right for me. I can categorically state that in Prince Ali we have a candidate. It would be a new Fifa.
There’s no way the president, who has worked for Fifa for many many years, can ignore [corruption allegations]. He has to move on. If I was in that situation i would. I can’t see how that cannot be the right decision.
No, when I went for it, I thought that would be the case. Uefa have 8 votes, roughly a third. That is a good platform could effect that change. Things will not change until there is a new leader of football and world football is crying out for it.
So after crisis meetings at Fifa HQ, and a personal plea from the Uefa president Michel Platini, Sepp Blatter has resisted calls to step down. Uefa will back his challenger, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein. Here’s the latest from our reporters in Zurich and London:
Fifa president Sepp Blatter is to press ahead with his bid for a fifth term at the head of football’s scandal-hit world governing body, rebuffing a personal plea for him to quit from the head of the game in Europe.
Uefa, European football’s governing body, ruled out seeking a postponement of Friday’s election and will instead back Blatter’s challenger, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.
The Guardian’s David Conn talking on Sky News:
There’s a feeling of impotence in the European football associations because they believe Blatter is going to sail through and be elected. The idea of them pressing some sort of D-day and boycotting the world cup, I just cant see there being support for that.
It’s absolutely staggering – reading the indictment you could drown yourself with the detail, then you step back and think this is really happening and this is huge. In the past in general we’ve just had reports and rumours and investigative journalism.
Platini said it was difficult for him to tell his “friend” Sepp Blatter that he should step down, and said the incumbent president “wants to come out fighting”. Platini finished the press conference saying:
Europe don’t support Mr Blatter... There are beautiful evenings ahead, but some long days before them.
Michel Platini on Fifa:
I’m responsible for Uefa. Fifa covers more. I don’t know the system, I only here the rumours and read the press – I’m not dumb.
I would have liked to hear the Garcia report. Today we have had proof that there is something that does’t work. We are waiting for the Garcia report and we would have had it for a while now [had it been made public originally].
Yes. Yes, yes. I believe, but I couldn’t have asked him a few weeks ago because what happened happened yesterday.
Asked if Europe could boycott the World Cup, Platini said Uefa will remain "open to all options".
Platini said that all of Uefa's representatives on the Fifa ex-co could boycott if Blatter wins.
Platini on Prince Ali, who he has vowed to back in tomorrow’s election:
Prince Ali is young, he’s ambitious and that’s why I support him. He can do some good, he doesn’t need money. Things are a bit complicated in his region because he doesn’t have the support of his region but he’s a man that can do a lot of good.
Yes. Before what happened yesterday, no. But enough is enough. People have really had enough. I think there will be a lot of changes but we’re going to continue working this evening.
Platini on David Gill, who has said he will resign from the Fifa’s executive committee if Blatter wins the election for presidency:
I brought David into Fifa. He was not interested and I said England has to be in Fifa, it’s too easy to speak in the newspaper it is better to speak in the room.
But, he said ‘I will be proposed as vice president of the British before the elections’. Which means he doesn’t know what could be the election of the president after that.
Platini confirms he asked Blatter to leave but that the incumbent said it was too late for him to quit, one day before the Congress.
Platini says he does not regret not standing for the Fifa presidency and defends his previous support for Blatter.
Platini on meeting with Blatter:
I told him ‘Sepp, I’d like to speak to you man to man, face to face.’ He said ‘It’s too late. I can’t all of a sudden leave when congress starts this afternoon.’
I told Sepp Blatter to leave, to step down, because you are giving Fifa a terrible image. It’s not easy to tell a friend that he must leave but that is the way history is going. I’m saying this with sadness, with tears in my eyes. There have been too many scandals.
Today we had a meeting of the 54 members, tomorrow when it comes to the election of the presidency a very big majority of European national associations will vote Prince Ali. People don’t want (Sepp Blatter) anymore and I don’t want him anymore either. I have always said they want Fifa to be strong and Fifa is no longer strong. I am still trying to convince some [European football associations] who are not totally convinced.
Michel Platini speaks to the press following Fifa’s meeting:
Sometimes I have stomach troubles and that relates to Fifa problems. Honestly, myself as a lover of Fifa, I’m a great admirer of it’s history, I really don’t know where to put myself. I have had enough, enough is enough. Too much is too much.
Michael van Praag, the Dutch FA president, says boycotting the Congress would achieve nothing and hand Blatter victory.
Our chief sport correspondent Owen Gibson has filed this from Zurich:
European football’s governing body has ruled out seeking a postponement of Friday’s Fifa presidential election despite the crisis gripping the organisation and will instead back Sepp Blatter’s challenger Prince Ali bin al-Hussein.
Uefa’s meeting sparked quite the media scrum:
Absolute chaos at the UEFA Confederation meeting. Just a mess. https://t.co/m24YztDz8Z
Uefa’s stance was confirmed by John Delaney, chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland:
“David Gill stood up and said he won’t take up his seat, that was the big thing. I think it was very brave and very honest of him and there was a good round of applause, people thought ‘that’s a man of honour’. From his own personal perspective he doesn’t want to serve under Blatter and you have to respect that position.
“There wasn’t a vote taken but Michel Platini will tell you Uefa is unified, whether all 53 transfer their votes over I don’t know, I think one or two will be lost along the way.”
Platini asked Blatter to stand down after one on one meeting. Blatter, unsurprisingly, refused.
Gill got a round of applause from Uefa delegates when he said he would stand down from Fifa ex co if Blatter wins.
So Uefa has decided not to boycott tomorrow’s scheduled election for Fifa presidency and will instead get behind Prince Ali in a bid to oust Sepp Blatter from power and prevent the 79-year-old securing a fifth-term.
In addition, PA are reporting that David Gill will resign from Fifa’s executive committee if Blatter is re-elected as president.
Uefa won't boycott congress and will largely vote for Prince Ali. David Gill to step down from Fifa ex co if Blatter wins.
Prince Ali told Uefa that he believes he has 60 votes outside Europe.
A reminder that we are still waiting to hear the fallout from Sepp Blatter’s emergency meeting with the heads of the representatives from Fifa’s six confederations, which includes Uefa’s Michel Platini – and it is being reported that Uefa will not boycott tomorrow’s scheduled election for Fifa presidency.
Though some of the tweets need no translation...
The USA in meddling in internal affairs again. #FIFAarrests pic.twitter.com/7JbH9aOnYY
Это круто! Стали известны обложки, к новой ФИФА 2016:) #юмор #футбол pic.twitter.com/zCw3DvdbB7
.@SeppBlatter when he remembered Russia destroyed the computers used for our #FIFA world cup bid. #FIFAarrests pic.twitter.com/YEsRKi2ju7
Reaction in Russia to events has ranged “from the droll to the pugnacious”, according to Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, who translate a number of tweets to convey public perception:
Before the Kremlin commented on the shocking legal drama unfolding over alleged activities at global soccer authority FIFA, the Russian Internet and other media lit up as Russians reacted to news of investigations that could cast a harsh light on Russia’s successful bid to host the 2018 World Cup.
Swiss authorities on May 27 arrested senior soccer officials for alleged corruption in connection with a U.S. case targeting FIFA executives and launched their own criminal proceedings relating to the way the World Cups in 2018 and 2022 were awarded to Russia and Qatar.
This tweet captures what the shadow culture, media and sport secretary, Chris Bryant, put in strong terms this morning in the House of Commons: “Workers are dying, 62 per match. Human rights are systemcaticlly being abused. Now that (sponsors) have raised concerns, should the bidding rounds [for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups] not be reopened?”
The human toll of FIFA’s corruption, in one chart http://t.co/reXXZRhkt4 pic.twitter.com/7NI1QiVxPF
Inside World Football reports further African backing for the embattled Fifa president, with Guinea-Bissau FA president Manuel Nascimento Lopes describing the “conspiracy” against Blatter as “blasphemy”.
Western-led calls for Sepp Blatter to resign as FIFA president in the wake of the gravest corruption crisis to hit his organisation was described today as “blasphemy” by one of Africa’s federation presidents who said his continent was more firmly behind the veteran Swiss than ever.
While few federations have been prepared to speak out following the astonishing corruption claims in the United States, coupled with an unrelated seperate Swiss probe into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bid process, Guinea-Bissau FA president Manuel Nascimento Lopes said it was totally unfair to blame Blatter for the shady conduct of others.
The Guardian political reporter Frances Perraudin has this on the news that David Cameron has joined calls for Blatter to resign:
The prime minister backs the culture secretary’s call for Sepp Blatter to resign, a Downing Street spokesperson has told journalists in Westminster.
Asked if the prime minister supported comments John Whittingdale made in parliament this morning, his spokesperson said: “I associated the prime minister in full with what John Whittingdale was saying.”
#AFC + #CAF have now re-iterated their support for #Blatter + insist the election should go ahead. Waiting on outcome from #UEFA meeting...
Caf has released a statement opposing any postponement of tomorrow’s Fifa presidential election:
The Confederation of African Football opposes any postponement of the 65th FIFA Congress and the election for the presidency scheduled May 29, 2015 in Zurich. During the meeting of the federation held May 27, 2015 in Zurich, the FCA reiterated its support for the candidacy of Sepp Blatter in the election.
It should be noted that CAF is following with particular attention the events that occur at this time in the football family. It reaffirms its commitment to work and to cooperate in safeguarding the ethical and moral values that underlie the practice of the sport, its organization and administration. Hence its full and ongoing support to the package of measures driven to FIFA in recent years in improving governance.
Reuters report that the Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, said today there was “no risk” of Russia losing the right to host the 2018 World Cup after Swiss investigators opened a criminal investigation into the bidding process.
This follows Vladamir Putin’s strong words earlier on state TV which accused the US of “meddling” in affairs outside of their jurisdiction:
“This is yet another blatant attempt [by the United States] to extend its jurisdiction to other states,” the Russian president said on Thursday.
Putin added that the arrests were a “clear attempt” to prevent the re-election of Fifa head Sepp Blatter and that the Swiss had Russia’s backing.
Blatter held an emergency meeting with representatives from the six confederations including Uefa president Michel Platini this morning, it has been confirmed. A Fifa official told PA: “A meeting was held with representatives from the confederations but there is no further information.”
Prime Minister David Cameron has joined the calls for Sepp Blatter to resign, says his official spokesman:
“I’ve associated the Prime Minister in full with what John Whittingdale was saying. The FA – and we are squarely behind the FA – supports the candidacy of Prince Ali [bin al-Hussein].
“I understand that many England fans were disappointed that England’s bid hadn’t been successful. You know that the Prime Minister was one of them.
Uefa president Michel Platini trapped in lift - the only way is up pic.twitter.com/kHkMRqoCqm
Owen Gibson on the latest from Zurich, where Uefa are meeting now to discuss the crisis:
Michel Platini has just arrived at the Uefa meeting at which the European confederation will decide whether to push for a postponement of Friday’s election. He came straight from an emergency meeting convened by Sepp Blatter. Uefa sources are split over whether to push for a postponement of Friday’s vote, while some including Russia and Spain will continue to back Blatter. Following the meeting Platini will hold a press conference.
David Smith has the view from the ground in Zambia, where Sepp Blatter has skilfully commandeered backing from football associations across the African game, using projects like Goal to garner support:
Fraying at the edges, Fifa’s flags twist in the wind outside Football House in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, with the national flag between them. A nearby inscription is badly faded in the sun. It reads: “The Football Association of Zambia, Football House, built as part of Fifa’s Goal development programme was inaugurated in Lusaka on 6 April 2002 by Joseph S Blatter, Fifa president.”
Presenting Zambian football with its first home is just one example of how Blatter has won the hearts and minds of Africa’s football establishment. Its loyalty has enabled him to ride out every storm and is more critical than ever as seeks re-election at the helm of an organisation embroiled in the biggest scandal in its history.
There is plenty of focus on South Africa this morning and the winning bid to host the 2010 World Cup, with Danny Jordaan coming under scrutiny. The South African government have today denied any wrongdoing over allegations that huge bribes were paid during the bidding process, as AFP in Johannesburg report:
“When we concluded the FIFA World Cup here in South Africa we got a clean audit report,” Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe told reporters in Cape Town. “There has never been any suggestion that anything untoward happened in South Africa.”
Radebe, who was on the local organising committee (LOC), did not directly address the US indictment, which alleged that $10,000 was handed over in Paris as a bribe by a “high-ranking South African bid committee official”.
Developments over the past 24 hours have provoked powerful words in the House of Commons this morning, as political correspondent Rowena Mason reports:
John Whittingdale, the new culture, media and sport secretary, suggested Blatter should quit Fifa as the “deeply flawed and corrupt organisation” needs a change of leadership. He also urged sponsors to follow the lead of Visa and “reflect on their links to Fifa”.
He said football’s reputation had been “dragged into the mud” and that while the arrests of Fifa officials in Zurich were “shocking in both their scope and scale”, they also “far from surprising”. Whittingdale then paid tribute to the Insight team at the Sunday Times whose revelations increased scrutiny of Fifa.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been speaking on state TV in the past few minutes, and had this to say on the Fifa arrests:
It looks very strange, the arrests are carried out on the request of the USA side. They are accused of corruption – who is? International officials. I suppose that someone broke some rules, I don’t know. But definitely, it’s got nothing to do with the USA. Those officials are not US citizens. If something happened it was not in the US and it’s nothing to do with them.
It’s another clear attempt by the USA to spread its jurisdiction to other states. And I have no doubt – it’s a clear attempt not to allow Mr Blatter to be re-elected as president of Fifa, which is a great violation of the operating principles of international organisations. The US prosecutor, as our media report, has already said that those Fifa officials have committed a crime. As if the prosecutor didn’t know about the principle of the presumption of innocence.
John Whittingdale also called for Michael Garcia’s report into the World Cup bids to be made public – in full.
The issue is currently being discussed in the House of Commons. John Whittingdale, the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, is answering for the government and has said in the past few minutes:
“The English FA and home nations, I will be in touch with them. I am very pleased that all four have take then same approach in supporting Uefa in terms of [Fifa’s] leadership and postponement of the [Fifa presidential] election tomorrow.
“I hope that one of the consequences is that we will now have a proper investigation which will lead to reform [of Fifa].”
“Football belongs to mums and dads taking kids to their first match, not the fat cats creaming millions off the top for themselves. Is it not inconceivable that Sepp Blatter can continue now?”
“Matches will be played indoors in 40 degrees. Workers are dying, 62 per match. Human rights are systemcaticlly being abused. Now that (sponsors) have raised concerns, should the bidding rounds [for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups] not be reopened?”
What could worsen an already disastrous situation for Fifa is the response of the organisation’s key sponsors. PA report that South Korean car manufacturer Hyundai have said it is “extremely concerned” by the allegations.
“As a company that places the highest priority on ethical standards and transparency, Hyundai Motor is extremely concerned about the legal proceedings being taken against certain FIFA executives and will continue to monitor the situation closely,” it said in a statement.
A spokesman for McDonald’s, a second-tier sponsor, said: “McDonald’s takes matters of ethics and corruption very seriously and the news from the US Department of Justice is extremely concerning. We are in contact with FIFA on this matter. We will continue to monitor the situation very closely.”
Fifa sponsors, including Adidas, Visa and Coca-Cola, are calling for the body to reform its practices. Visa issued a statement on Wednesday expressing its “disappointment and concern with Fifa”. It said that unless football’s world governing body rebuilds a corporate culture with “strong ethical practices” at its heart, “we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship”.
Coca-Cola said: “This lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the Fifa World Cup and we have repeatedly expressed our concerns about these serious allegations.”
It’s worth noting that there is an urgent question in the House of Commons today regarding Fifa. John Whittingdale, the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, will be answering for the government, and we can expect him to have strong words on the crisis facing football’s governing body.
In Russia, Reuters report that President Vladimir Putin has accused the US of meddling outside its jurisdiction:
“This is yet another blatant attempt (by the United States) to extend its jurisdiction to other states,” Putin said. He added the arrests were a “clear attempt” to prevent the re-election of Fifa head Sepp Blatter and that he had Russia’s backing.
South Africa’s successful bid to host the 2010 World Cup is also facing scrutiny. Danny Jordaan, president of the South African Football Association who led the bid, has been elected unopposed as mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth. The opposition parties boycotted.
Here is how the Mail & Guardian reported the story in South Africa today:
South Africa and its football officials stand accused of buying the vote that landed the country the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Now all eyes are on Danny Jordaan, who led the bid and hopes to be elected mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay on Thursday.
United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch dropped her bombshell indictment on international football on Wednesday, alleging “corruption that is rampant, systemic and deep-rooted”, spanning two-and-a-half decades and multiple jurisdictions.
Altogether nine Fifa or Fifa member organisation officials and five company executives are indicted by the US. Another four individuals and two sports companies have already been convicted quietly, after plea bargains.
Where this leaves Jordaan is unclear. As head of the South African Football Association, he was reportedly due to fly to Zurich on Thursday to attend the congress – the same day he could be elected as mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay – should the ANC succeed in mustering its small majority in the metro.
Jordaan could not be reached for comment before going to press and did not respond to text messages. When amaBhungane phoned the ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa on Wednesday evening, the call was cut mid conversation, and he did not respond to text messages.
The Australian Associated Press report that police in the country have been asked to investigate a payment of $500,000 by Football Federation Australia to former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner:
It’s understood Bonita Mersiades, a former Australian football executive turned whistleblower, has written to the AFP asking that it investigate the matter following raids that resulted in the arrests of seven high-ranking executives of football’s global governing body.
The AFP’s commissioner, Andrew Colvin, on Thursday confirmed that it may investigate the allegations after the matter was raised by the South Australian senator Nick Xenophon during a Senate hearing in Canberra.
Here is the latest from Owen Gibson, the Guardian’s chief sports correspondent, in Zurich:
FA chairman Greg Dyke has moved to dismiss speculation that the current Fifa crisis could lead to England hosting the 2018 World Cup.
“This absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with an England bid for the World Cup or England hosting the World Cup,” said Dyke, ahead of a Uefa meeting to decide how best to challenge Blatter ahead of Friday’s scheduled presidential election.
I understand FIFA Presidential candidate Prince Ali wants tomorrow's election to go ahead, & feels like it is not a foregone conclusion
The latest dissenting voice towards Blatter comes from his former rival for Fifa presidency, Lennart Johansson. The former head of Uefa, who lost the 1998 Fifa presidential election to Blatter, says Russia and Qatar’s respective wins to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups should be reviewed following fresh corruption charges:
“I expect they will reconsider the (World Cup) decisions. Blatter himself has said that the decision to go east wasn’t proper. I am sure the initiative will now be taken to make a new decision.
“England haven’t had it since 1966 and it’s considered ’the motherland of football’, whatever we might think. They are worthy of the attention.
The Guardian front page, Thursday 28 May 2015: The stench of corruption pic.twitter.com/7YCnGD2hbh
The Guardian’s front page this morning leads with the growing number of voices throughout football as well as key stakeholders outside the game calling for Sepp Blatter to resign as Fifa president.
Greg Dyke, the chairman of the English Football Association, is one of those demanding Blatter immediately steps down:
“Blatter has put out a statement saying now is the time to start rebuilding the trust in Fifa – there is no way of re-building trust in Fifa while Sepp Blatter is still there.
“Sepp Blatter has to go. He either has to go through a resignation, or he has to be out-voted or we have to find a third way. I think the time has come where the damage this has done to Fifa is so great that it can’t be re-built while Blatter is there so Uefa has got to try to force him out.”
In case you missed it, here is what happened on an unprecedented day of crisis for Fifa yesterday:
Welcome to today’s live blog covering the developments in Zurich as the crisis at Fifa rumbles on. We will have the latest on this live blog as the story develops. Here’s a quick summary of the latest news. Continue reading...