Disgraced former FIFA president Sepp Blatter angrily dismissed suggestions that he knew about corruption during his time as head of world football’s governing body. Luis Moreno Ocampo, once chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, said Blatter should have spoken out.
“The problem is his silence,” Ocampo told students at a debate hosted by the University of Basel on Friday. “As president of FIFA he had to set an example. So even if he was not personally involved, why the silence?”
“If he did not know what happened in FIFA then he was a bad manager. But he was not, he is smart. He probably knew [about the corruption] but chose to stay quiet.”
Blatter, who was also present at the debate entitled Reforming FIFA, expressed his surprise and anger when he met with journalists after the two hour long event.
“I was surprised that Mr Ocampo should make such an accusation. I think it was out of context and I am unhappy about that. I have been saying for years that I am not morally responsible for what others have done,” he told swissinfo.ch.
“If you look at all the people who have been arrested, they come from the Americas and their activities were carried out for their confederations, not FIFA.”
Blatter suggested that Ocampo may have been expressing sour grapes for not being appointed as head of FIFA’s ethics committee.
The Basel event was interrupted three times by hecklers, some of whom were led away by security.
You can watch a recording of the event, that includes Blatter's contribution, below.
FIFA has been embroiled in numerous allegations of corruption, which has sparked separate criminal probes in Switzerland and the United States. Blatter is serving a six year ban from football for having dealt with a suspect CHF2 million transaction. He is appealing the sentence.
During the event, Blatter blamed the activities of football confederations, particularly that of Germany, as well as FIFA’s executive committee and the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy for the scandals that have engulfed football.
But he refused to take any responsibility himself. “I have no regrets about the things that I have done,” he told students. “My only regret is not being able to do enough to steer FIFA back onto the right track.”
Harvard University professor John Ruggie contributed this week to the ongoing reform process at FIFA by producing a report on its human rights record. Ruggie authored the United Nations Guiding principles on Business and Human Rights, which were adopted in 2011.
Last December, FIFA asked Ruggie for a critique of its human rights record. This followed allegations of state-backed homophobia in Russia and of construction workers being killed in unsafe conditions in Qatar in the build up to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments.
In February, FIFA’s Congress adopted a series of reforms, including the clause stating that “FIFA is committed to respecting all internationally recognised human rights and shall strive to promote the protection of these rights.”
Ruggie welcomed the move, but said in his report that FIFA still has a long way to go to make sure human rights standards are upheld during World Cup preparations and other aspects, from equal treatment of women to procuring supplies from ethical sources.
“[FIFA] must use its influence to address these human rights risks as determinedly as it does to pursue its commercial interests,” Ruggie stated.
The report says FIFA must spell out how it means to commit to human rights standards, apply these measures to its 209 member associations, monitor and enforce standards and become more transparent with NGOs and the public.
“This is an ongoing process and of course challenges remain, but FIFA is committed to playing its part in ensuring respect for human rights and to being a leader among international sports organisations in this important area,” new FIFA President Gianni Infantino stated in response to the report.