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"Captain" Blatter wins fourth Fifa term



Sepp Blatter

Sepp Blatter

(Reuters)

Under-fire Fifa chief Joseph “Sepp” Blatter has promised anti-corruption reforms on being crowned President of world football for a fourth consecutive term.

Blatter received 186 out of a possible 208 votes at Fifa’s Congress in Zurich on Wednesday. The election and last year’s process of appointing the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts have been mired in controversy.

Fifa’s image was further dented when Blatter’s only challenger for president, Mohamed bin Hammam, was forced to pull out of the race on Sunday after being suspended on suspicion of bribery.

Bin Hammam - who denies the allegations – issued a statement complaining that he was not provided with detailed legal reasons for his suspension and was not allowed to lodge an appeal in time to gain entry to Wednesday’s Congress meeting.

“I will never accept how my name and reputation have been damaged,” his statement read. “I will fight for my rights.”

Ship’s captain

English Football Association chairman David Bernstein attempted to have the election postponed on the grounds that there was only one candidate. “A coronation without an opponent provides a flawed mandate,” he said.

But his motion was overwhelmingly rejected by Wednesday’s Congress.

Addressing the Congress, Blatter said that he was the best person to lead Fifa out of its present problems.

“Our ship is taking on water and sailing in troubled waters. I am the captain weathering the storm,” the 75-year-old Swiss national said. “It is my duty and responsibility to see to it that [Fifa] gets back on the right course.”

“We have been hit and I personally have been slapped. I am personally willing to face public anger in order to serve football,” he added.

“Bought” votes

Blatter vowed to allow Fifa’s 208 member associations to decide on the venue of future World Cups and to appoint members to the organisation’s Ethics Committee. Previously, such decisions were taken by Fifa’s 24 executive committee members.

“We must put a stop to these insinuations of cheating from left, right and centre,” Blatter said.

The awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar last year sparked the latest round of allegations and counter-allegations that have dragged Fifa’s name through the mud.

Most of the complaints have come from England, with claims of bought votes and bribery coming from the country’s football association, politicians and the media.

This week, Fifa Vice-President Jack Warner – who was suspended on Sunday along with Bin Hammam – circulated an email from Fifa secretary-general Jérôme Valcke that suggested Qatar had “bought” the 2022 World Cup.

Valcke later said he was referring to the financial strength behind Qatar’s promotional bid, rather than bribes. But this has failed to convince German Football Association President Theo Zwanziger who on Wednesday called for an inquiry into the bid.

Warner’s suspension also led to a fiasco on Tuesday in the Concacaf governing body of North and Central American and Caribbean football – of which he is president.

An attempt to remove Warner’s accuser, Concacaf secretary-general Chuck Blazer, from office was later ruled illegal by the body.

Political critics

Apart from a sustained media attack on the integrity of Fifa, football’s governing body has been questioned by politicians of many countries and some of its main sponsors. Visa, Coca-Cola, Emirates Airlines and Adidas have all expressed concerns.

Swiss politicians have also been dragged into the row as Fifa’s headquarters have been situated in Zurich since 1932.

Sport Minister Ueli Maurer has demanded that Fifa provide an account of all allegations levelled against it along with evidence that the organisation is working to clean up its act.

If it fails to comply, Fifa could face losing its privileges as a sporting association and its associated tax breaks.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Congress meeting on Tuesday, Micheline Calmy-Rey, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, urged Fifa to “take seriously” the criticism it faces.

“It is important that you examine them swiftly and take the necessary measures to reform your governance,” she said. “What is important is to restore full confidence in your organisation – do not let money spoil your ideals.”

Fifa scandals

Football’s world governing body has been dogged by allegations of corruption for many years.

Sepp Blatter’s victorious 2002 presidential election campaign was marred by claims the election was rigged.
 
Fifa set up an ethics committee in 2006 to look into allegations of corruption surrounding the sport.
 
In 2008 a judicial case in Zug implicated unnamed Fifa officials in a multi-million dollar kickback scandal involving bankrupt sport marketing firm ISMM-ISL.
 
Last year’s vote to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar was also mired in allegations of bribery and sold votes.
 
An investigation punished Nigeria football chief Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii of the Oceana confederation with bans, along with four Fifa officials.
 
With claims and counter-claims of corruption mounting, Qatar’s Mohamed bin Hammam pledged to stand against Sepp Blatter in this year’s Presidential election.

On Sunday, Bin Hammam pulled out of the race after being suspended by Fifa’s ethics committee on suspicion of corruption. Fifa vice-president Jack Warner was also suspended, but Blatter was cleared of charges of wrongdoing.

end of infobox

Sepp Blatter

Joseph S Blatter was born on March 10, 1936 in Visp, Canton Valais.

A football player in the amateur Swiss leagues, Blatter started his professional career in public relations with the Valais tourist board.

He was elected as General Secretary of the Swiss Ice Hockey League in 1964 before moving to Fifa in 1975 as Director of Technical Development Programmes.

Six years later, Blatter was appointed as General Secretary of Fifa and then Chief Executive in 1990.

He was first voted in as Fifa President in 1998 and won three futher elections in 2002, 2007 and 2011.

end of infobox

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