Blatter remains defiant despite engulfing crisis

Ross McLean
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Sepp Blatter is seeking a fifth term as Fifa president in today’s election against Prince Ali
DEFIANT president Sepp Blatter refused to quit his position at the top of the scandal-ridden world governing body yesterday as the shockwaves from the Fifa corruption scandal continued to reverberate throughout football.

Uefa counterpart Michel Platini demanded that Blatter resign, while failing to rule out further challenges to the 79-year-old’s authority should he win today’s presidential election against Jordanian candidate Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein.

Blatter had earlier held a crisis meeting with key Fifa figures following the seismic events of Wednesday when seven serving officials were arrested. All are challenging extradition to the United States where authorities have indicted 18 people on corruption charges.

In a separate investigation, criminal proceedings were opened by the Swiss attorney general in relation to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

Blatter used a speech at the opening ceremony of the Fifa congress yesterday to resolutely defend his position and refuse to accept responsibility for the actions of a “tiny minority” who have corrupted the game of football.

“It must fall to me for the well-being of our organisation to find the way forward to fix things,” said Blatter, who has been Fifa president since 1998. “We cannot allow the reputation of football and Fifa to be dragged through the mud any longer, it has to stop, here and now.

“I know many people hold me ultimately responsible for the actions of the global football community, whether it’s the decision for the hosting of a World Cup or a corruption scandal.

“The next few months will not be easy for Fifa, I’m sure more bad news will follow but it’s necessary to restore trust in our organisation. Let this be the turning point. We have lost the trust and we must now earn it back.”

Uefa decided against snubbing today’s election although Platini warned that all options remain on the table should Blatter secure a fifth term in office, including a potential World Cup boycott.

“I have had enough. Enough is enough, too much is too much. I am the first to be disgusted,” said Platini. “Uefa associations will meet in Berlin next week. We will be open to all options.”

Pressed on the possibility of a World Cup boycott, he added: “There may be proposals. I honestly don’t wish that.”

Platini continued to show electoral support for Prince Ali and has declared that he will receive backing from the vast majority of European countries in tomorrow’s anonymous ballot, citing up to 46 of the 53 voting associations.

Despite the crisis engulfing Fifa, Blatter is still believed to retain the support of other regions, with the Asian Football Confederation, bar the Australian football federation, and swathes of the Confederation of African Football, understood to favour the Swiss.

English Football Association vice-chairman and former Manchester United chief executive David Gill, meanwhile, has said that he will refuse to serve on Fifa’s executive committee should Blatter be re-elected. He is set to take over as Britain’s Fifa vice-president today.