Sepp Blatter has announced he will step down as FIFA President, with a successor to be appointed at an Extraordinary Congress which will be held “as rapidly as possible”.
The next FIFA Congress is due to be staged next May, but Blatter, making his shock announcement at a hastily-arranged press conference which comes just days after he was re-elected for a fifth term, says they will look to hold an Extraordinary Congress long before that.
Based on FIFA statutes, four months notice is required for any Presidential Election to be held, with FIFA chairman of Audit and Compliance Committee Domenico Scala suggesting that it will take place within the period of December 2015 to March 2016.
The news is sure to send shockwaves throughout football and comes amid the biggest crisis within world football’s governing body in its history.
“I have thoroughly thought about my Presidency and the 40 years FIFA has played in my life,” Blatter said.
“My mandate does not appear to be supported by everybody.”
“I will organise an Extraordinary Congress for a replacement for me as President.”
“I will not stand.”
“I am now free from the constraints of an election.”
“I will continue to exercise my functions as FIFA President until that election.”
“FIFA’s interest are dear to me and that’s why I have taken this decision.”
“I have fought for these changes before and, as everyone knows, my efforts have been blocked.”
“This time, I will succeed.”
“What matters to me more than anything is that when all of this is over, football is the winner.”
Blatter also called for the size of the Executive Committee to be reduced and to reassess the scope of the continental organisations.
During the press conference, no mention was made about how this would affect the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar respectively, although the announcement throws the destination of the 2022 tournament in particular into question with both bid processes under investigation from Federal Authorities.
Reacting to the news, UEFA President Michel Platini, who had called for the Swiss veteran to step down before last week’s Congress, said it “was a difficult decision, a brave decision, and the right decision”.
It is expected that the Swiss will cease to be an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member when he steps down, with current IOC President Thomas Bach adding that “we highly respect this decision of President Blatter to step down and to initiate the necessary reforms – and to make way for a new leadership of FIFA to drive these changes”.
Blatter, who had been FIFA President since 1998, beat only challenger Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein to prolong his turbulent period at the head of the organisation after his opponent withdrew before the second round of voting.
Prince Ali will stand in the election to be Blatter’s successor, it has also been announced.
Speaking to Swiss TV following his re-election, where he appeared jubilant and delighted at the result, Blatter had asked why he would step down as that would imply he had “done something wrong”.
FIFA was plunged into chaos once again ahead of their Congress in Zurich last week after Swiss authorities launched a morning raid on the Baur au Lac Hotel, where some officials were staying, and arrested seven top members of the organisation accused of top-level corruption.
The United States Justice Department indicted nine FIFA officials and five other executives for racketeering, conspiracy and corruption.
The US Department of Justice confirmed Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) President Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands was one of those arrested in the dawn raids.
China’s Eduardo Li, Nicaraguan Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Uruguay’s Eugenio Figueredo, Venezuela’s Rafael Esquivel and Brazil’s José Maria Marin were the others to be detained.
The Swiss Attorney General has confirmed that Blatter himself is not under investigation, however the extent of his involvement with the American investigation remains to be seen.
A latest twist today came when FIFA attempted to protect its secretary general, Jérôme Valcke from becoming caught up in the mounting media storm over a $10 million (£6 million/€9 million) payment referred to in the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) indictment that cast a shadow over last week’s FIFA Congress in Zurich.
FIFA claimed neither Jérôme Valcke nor “any other member of FIFA’s senior management were involved in the initiation, approval and implementation of the…project”, which consisted of a payment sent to former CONCACAF President Jack Warner in 2010.
Shortly afterwards, however, a letter from SAFA outlining the scheme and dated 4 March 2008 surfaced.
This was addressed to Valcke at FIFA in Switzerland.
It is hoped that Blatter’s resignation will bring about much needed reforms within an organisation that has been plagued with a miasma of allegations of corruption, bribery and other misdemeanours throughout the Swiss’ 17-year reign in charge.
“By making this announcement, he has created an opportunity for us to go further than FIFA has before – to fundamentally change the way in which FIFA is structured,” Scala added.
“As the President has stated, these reforms will include fundamental changes to the way in which this organisation is structured – steps that go far beyond the actions that have been implemented to this point.”
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Inside the Games.