FIFA is the most powerful organization in soccer, which means Sepp Blatter, its governing president, is the most powerful person in the sport, but that will soon change as the 79-year-old has announced he will step down once a new president is identified to allow a “profound overhaul” of the organization.
Less than a week after the United States Department of Justice, in conjunction with Swiss authorities, arrested nine FIFA officials and five other marketing executives tied to the association, and just four days since he successfully won a fifth four-year term, Blatter unexpectedly announced his resignation.
“I felt compelled to stand for re-election, as I believed that was the best thing for the organization,” Blatter said in his remarks. “That election is over but FIFA’s challenges are not. FIFA needs a profound overhaul.”
Stepping Down… Eventually
Blatter’s resignation isn’t effective immediately; in fact, his leaving of the position has no set date.
The next meeting for the FIFA Congress isn’t scheduled to take place until May 13, 2016, which is why Blatter is calling for an “extraordinary” convening at the earliest opportunity.
That earliest opportunity will need to allow ample time “for the best candidates to present themselves and to campaign,” Blatter explained.
So when can we expect a new president?
“Based upon the FIFA statues, a four-month notice is required for any presidential elections to be held,” Domenico Scala, chairman of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee said. “Therefore, while the decision on timing of the Extraordinary Congress and election of a new President will ultimately be up to the Executive Committee, the expectation is that this could take place anytime from December of this year to March of next year.”
Handed a Silver Blatter
Although Blatter wasn’t specifically named by US Attorney General Loretta Lynch on charges of money laundering, racketeering, wire fraud, and the taking of more than $150 million in bribes over the last 24 years, it was revealed yesterday that his top lieutenant made a $10 million payment in 2008 to another soccer official, bringing the investigation that much closer to the head honcho.
Whether Blatter felt compelled to relinquish his position as FIFA president to truly help its image or if he finally felt the pressure isn’t known, but his self-righteousness has continued to shine. “While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football.”
For the leader of the World Cup, one might argue otherwise.
His comments shadow his statements following the raid on FIFA officials last week, hinting that the Americans are simply jealous.
“I’m not certain, but it doesn’t smell good. There are unmistakable signs: the Americans were candidates for the 2022 World Cup, and they lost,” he told Swiss media outlet RTS.
But the United States isn’t the only country excited to see Blatter go. “This is great news for football. It should have happened years ago,” Greg Dyke, chairman of the English Football Association said.
Michel Platini, president of UEFA, Europe’s governing body of soccer, agrees. “It was a difficult decision, a brave decision, and the right decision.”
Blatter concluded his announcement by saying, “What matters to me more than anything is that when all of this is over, football is the winner.” Unfortunately, his desire to protect the game he so cherishes might be too little, too late.