FIFA President Sepp Blatter Resigns As The Vultures Circle

FIFA's President surprised everyone today by resigning, but he's likely to stay in power for as long as another ten months.

Sepp Blatter

Less than a week after a series of indictments of top FIFA officials rocked the soccer world, FIFA Preident Sepp Blatter has announced his resignation just days after having been re-elected to a fifth term:

Sepp Blatter, who led world soccer’s governing body for 17 years and had just won re-election for a fifth four-year term, resigned his position at a hastily called news conference in Zurich on Tuesday evening in the wake of an international corruption inquiry.

In a short speech delivered at the headquarters of FIFA, which oversees global soccer, Mr. Blatter said that “FIFA needs a profound restructuring” and that he had decided to step away from the organization for which he had worked in various positions for 40 years. Mr. Blatter, 79, who spoke in French, then referred to his recent re-election by FIFA’s 209 member nations when he said, “Although the members of FIFA have given me the new mandate, this mandate does not seem to be supported by everybody in the world of football.”

Mr. Blatter’s resignation is not immediate; according to Domenico Scala, the independent chairman of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee, who spoke to the news media after Mr. Blatter, a special meeting of FIFA’s member nations will be called to elect a new president. According to FIFA’s rules, there must be at least four months’ notice given to members for such a meeting, so Mr. Scala indicated that the likely window for a new election is from December 2015 to March 2016.

Mr. Blatter will continue his duties in the meantime, but will focus on a program of reform that he said would be driven by Mr. Scala.

“For years, we have worked hard to put in place administrative reforms, but it is plain to me that while these must continue, they are not enough,” Mr. Blatter said. “We need deep-rooted structural change.”

Mr. Blatter mentioned several components of reform that he found necessary, including a reshaping of the powerful executive committee. In a somewhat strange twist, given his lengthy presence as FIFA’s leader, he also noted the importance of term limits.

(…)

Pressure on Mr. Blatter mounted in recent days, beginning even before Friday’s FIFA Congress, at which he was re-elected. Two days before the election, Swiss police officials — acting on behalf of United States authorities — arrested several top soccer officials, including two FIFA vice presidents, at a five-star Zurich hotel, and the United States Department of Justice handed down a 47-count indictment alleging widespread corruption within the organization. The Swiss police also revealed that day that a separate investigation, which is focused on alleged improprieties involving the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments, had led investigators to seize documents and records from FIFA’s offices.

Mr. Blatter was not directly implicated in either investigation, but The New York Times reported late Monday that Mr. Blatter’s top deputy, Jérôme Valcke, had been identified by American officials as a person linked to wire transfers involving bank payments believed to be bribes related to World Cup bids. Mr. Valcke denied any involvement, and FIFA released a statement on Tuesday morning in response to the article that tried to distance Mr. Valcke from the transaction.

The logical assumption to be drawn from Blatter’s sudden and unexpected resignation, of course, is that the indictment last week and the investigations that have been launched in response to it by the United States, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom are getting closer and closer to the top of the organization and that Blatter saw that his days were numbered. While this may very well be the case, it strikes me that his move here is as much about preserving is own position and those of his cronies as anything else. While Blatter was re-elected last Friday, it took an unprecedented five ballots for him to get to the majority that was needed for victory. Since that vote occurred the day after the arrest of the FIFA officials in Zurich, it’s likely that those events added to the issues regarding corruption at FIFA that have been plaguing Blatter for years now. If Blatter truly believed he was in danger then it seems logical to assume that he would have resigned prior to the election. Instead, by standing for re-election and wining, he’s basically guaranteed that he will stay in power for as long as another ten months and that the process that chooses he replacement will be one that he and those close to him will have much more control over than they would have had over Friday’s election. Blatter’s stunt today, then, may not be as magnanimous at it seems and certainly isn’t the panicked move that some observers believe it to be. It was really quite a smart move on his part, if you think about it.

This is hardly the end of the story, of course. As I’ve noted, the investigation that led to last week’s indictments continues in the United States, and there are parallel investigations going on in Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Last night it was reported that one of Blatter’s top deputies was on the radar of investigators on both sides of the Atlantic.  The allegations regarding bribery connected to the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to the Qatar have been around for quite a long time now, and there are also allegations of corruption in connection with the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia. Blatter may yet be indicted in the United States or somewhere else, and as the Times notes in the article linked above Blatter is being investigated by the same Justice Department team that just issued indictments. For the moment, though, he remains in control at FIFA and this resignation doesn’t strike me as quite as earth shattering as it’s being made out to be.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Sports, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    John Oliver made a good point the other night, to whit that the stock of the United States would go way up if we could rid the world of this corrupt tinpot dictator.

    But, once again, can Europe not manage anything on its own? The Yugoslav break-up, Libya, now this?

  2. EddieInCA says:

    I’m a huge football fan (soccer to most of you). I’m one of those guys that gets up at 4am to watch the Premier League games live on the West Coast on NBCSN, Fox Deportes, and NBC when they cover it.

    Anyone who is a football/soccer fan is celebrating today. Seriously. F**KING CELEBRATING!!!

    Sepp Blatter should be in jail. Hopefully, he will be. FIFA soon.

    I’m glad that the US Justice Dept had something to do with him stepping down. Now, if we could only reverse the decision to give the World Cup to Russia and Quatar.

  3. Argon says:

    All this news should be played to the tune of ‘Won’t get fooled again’, by The Who.

  4. Hal_10000 says:

    My feeling is that either EUFA threatened to secede or some sponsors did. Either way, good riddance to bad rubbish. We should put him in short shorts and make him practice slide tackles on artificial turf.

  5. dmichaelwells says:

    As a frequent critic of the posts of Doug Mataconis, it is necessary for me to post a comment when I actually agree with him. This was a very shrewd move on Blatter’s part. He gets to delay his departure and allow himself time to line up his successor (and we all know how that is important in dictatorships) and marshall his supporters in a defensive position. The talk on social media is about “shredding.” However, I would like to know who the “vultures” are who are referenced in the caption of his post.

  6. Tyrell says:

    Soccer in this country hardly gets a nick on a tree, except maybe at the local school, church, or recreational leagues. I watched a few of the Cup games last summer. That is til about the half; by then I was asleep. The fields look like they are a mile long. The rules are confusing. And the typical scores are 2-1 or 1-0. The games are too long. People complain about baseball, but at least there can be a lot of scoring, more action, and close plays.

  7. ernieyeball says:

    Zero-Zero Tie for this chump!

    Forget getting photobombed. Getting rick rolled. Even getting drunk and claiming you got hacked. There’s nothing more embarrassing you can do on the Internet than getting Onion’d.
    One of the FIFA officials who got arrested last week just did. Such a pathetic look. You’d be better off accidentally tweeting an X-Rated DM than believing an article from The Onion is real.
    That’s what former FIFA VP Jack Warner just did. He sat down and cut an angry video maintaining his innocence and attacking the United States.
    But Warner didn’t just go off-half cocked. No, he did some research. He says the US was motivated by a desire to get the World Cup, as evidenced by the recent article, headlined “FIFA Frantically Announces 2015 Summer World Cup in United States.”
    http://jimrome.com/2015/06/01/fifa-official-gets-oniond/

  8. Pinky says:

    If a doctor ever writes “sep. bladder” on your medical chart, you’re in for a bad couple of weeks.

  9. Andre Kenji says:

    @Tyrell: American Football has high scores because each touchdown gives each team six points. You can do the same thing with soccer. Besides that, soccer is a fun game precisely because it does not require a large infrastructure to play. It´s a good recreational sport for playing with friends – better than American Football or Basketball.

    Seriously, many Americans don´t know what they are losing.

  10. ernieyeball says:

    Seriously, many Americans don´t know what they are losing.

    Do too know! We’re losing another opportunity to tear up the town!

    OK, just what defines a soccer riot? Good question.
    Does it take tear gas?
    Does it take police action?
    Does it take hundreds of arrests?
    Do business have to be destroyed?
    Does it take injuries?
    http://www.ussoccerplayers.com/2010/02/remembering-an-american-soccer-riot.html

  11. sam says:

    Jesus, FIFA is approaching American college football levels of corruption.

  12. superdestroyer says:

    @sam:

    Somehow I doubt if giving a five star prospect a Trans Am is the same as paying millions in bribes to secure media rights. Besides out of the 10k NCAA FBS football players, very few actually get a car or a job for their mother.

  13. Tyrell says:

    @ernieyeball: That riot occurred at the Orange Bowl of Miami. What do you expect in that area of town ? A postgame autograph, photo party on the field ?

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tyrell:

    The rules are confusing.

    Hahahahahahahahahahaha… The rules are simple squared and as unchanging as the sun and the moon compared to American football. Hell, they change the rules so much I don’t have a clue what is happening anymore. Gotten so bad, I don’t even bother watching it anymore.

  15. stonetools says:

    Loretta Lynch has certainly begun with a bang. Good for her!

    Hopefully, she can move on to corruption elsewhere-like the banks, and the billionaires buying the US elections.

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Doug, I think you are giving Blatter way too much credit. Applying Occams Razor it soon becomes obvious that a rich and powerful man who was above the law for so long he had come to think the only law that applied to him was gravity, as in “Sh!t rolls downhill” and he was going to stay on top of that hill. But he suddenly realized that he had to get his billions into secret bank accounts and arrange for his exile in an extradition free country.

  17. ernieyeball says:

    @Tyrell:..The only City of Miami I’ve ever experienced was the Illinois Central Streamliner running from Chicago to Sleepytown when I was in College. Some of the best parties I’ve ever lived through were on that train!
    I guess I don’t know about that area of town.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTn7gP8oYhA

  18. Tyrell says:

    @stonetools: I would think that investigation of some sports organization would rank low on the priority list for the DOJ and its affliates: FBI, ATF, US Marshalls, and Secret Service. Organized crime and gangs should be at the top of the list. And the sudden rise of these violent motorcycle gangs, which are growing in power and are threats to the state and local police.
    AG Loretta Lynch – I wonder if she is still doing any singing.

  19. gVOR08 says:

    @stonetools:

    Hopefully, she can move on to corruption elsewhere-like … billionaires buying the US elections.

    Nothing she can do. The Supremes have declared it legal for billionaires to buy elections. John Roberts probably thinks it’s patriotic.

  20. SKI says:

    @Tyrell: Your stereotypes are very outdated. I’m not surprised but you may want to look around and realize we are in a new century.

    @sam: FIFA is WAY more corrupt than any American sport – and I’ll even include wrestling in a loose definition of “sport”.

  21. EddieInCA says:

    @Tyrell:

    Anyone who thinks football/soccer is boring just doesn’t watch enough. A 2-1 football/soccer score is the same as a 14-7 game in American football. A 4-2 match is similar to a 28-14 or 24-10 or 20-14 game.

    Go to you tube and watch the Liverpool-Newcastle match from 1996 (it hooked me forever) where Stan Collymore slotted home the winner a few minutes from time.

    Watch Manchester United v. Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League Final.

    Watch Bacelona dismantle Man U in the Champions league a few years ago.

    Drama, passion, and unbelievable athletic skills.

    The best part of football? No breaks. Two 45 mins running time halves of football, with a few mins of added time.. Two hours. Done. No TV timeouts. No injury timeouts. Clock keeps running. Unless it’s the World Cup, or a champtionship final, in which case they have extra periods in case of a tie.

    Ronaldo
    Messi
    Cantona
    Schmeichel
    Gerrard
    Costa
    Henry
    Zidane
    Kahn
    Maradona
    Matthaus
    Cryuff

    All worldwide legends of whom most Americans have never heard. Football is the world’s most popular sport for a reason, and I’m not talking about the NFL.

  22. ernieyeball says:

    @EddieInCA:…A 2-1 football/soccer score is the same as a 14-7 game in American football.

    No Eddie. There is nothing about futbol that is like the NFL. We can be grateful for that.

    All worldwide legends of whom most Americans have never heard.

    If most Americans have not heard of them and I believe you are correct on that point, then they can hardly be considered worldwide legends.

  23. EddieInCA says:

    @ernieyeball:

    No Eddie. There is nothing about futbol that is like the NFL. We can be grateful for that.

    Oh man… I am thankful for that. Nothing like 11 minutes of action in a 3 hour game. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704281204575002852055561406

    Give me Manchester United v. Manchester City in a derby. Or Real Madrid v. Barcelona in La Liga.. or Spain v. Brazil in the World Cup. Not too many American football games reach this level of importance – again, world wide.

    The English Premier League, recently signed a new television deal, worth almost 1.3 Billion more per year than the NFL. That’s just one league from one country – albeit the most popular league in the world. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/wp/2015/02/13/massive-new-english-premier-league-tv-deal-has-the-rest-of-european-soccer-worried/

    So… Yeah, I’m glad that Futbol is very different than American football. And I say that as an American who played college football on a team t hat sent three guys to the NFL.

  24. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    The best point John Oliver made about Warner falling for the Onion article is that as a former FIFA executive he thought it was an actual possibility that FIFA would award an “extra” World Cup to a country. He may proclaim his innocence, but in practice he’s so aware of corruption that it didn’t even occur to him that the idea *of buying a World Cup tournament* was satire. You think Russia and Qatar didn’t buy their way to the tourny?

  25. EddieInCA says:

    All worldwide legends of whom most Americans have never heard.

    @ernieyeball:

    If most Americans have not heard of them and I believe you are correct on that point, then they can hardly be considered worldwide legends.

    Spoken like a true American. “America!! F**k Yeah!!!”

    Currently, the US population stands at 321,000,000, or roughly, 4.4% of the world population. That’s a small number.

    For the 2014 World Cup, futbol had 909 million viewers.
    For the 2014 Superbowl, Football had 112 million viewers.
    http://www.beutlerink.com/blog/number-super-bowl-world-cup-viewers/

    The world is much larger than just the good ol’ USA.

    The Prosecution rests.

  26. ernieyeball says:

    Eddie Eddie Eddie! Please show where I have ever used the phrase “America!! Fvck Yeah!!!”
    And yes, I am a natural born citizen.
    All U futbol freaks out there remind me of my grade school gym teacher, Coach Cobb, IIRC, who way back in 1957 when I was in the 4th grade bloviated endlessly about how by the time we graduted from High School in 1966 there would be no more Major League Baseball or Professional football. Everyone in the USA would be watching soccer and we were the American soccer players of the future!
    For three years all we did in PE was kick around that lame ass ball when me and everyone else wanted to play basketball and baseball.
    I still blame him for not being good enough to get college sports scholarship.
    Actually I think there’s something wrong with soccer fans in the United States. It’s like they’ve been brainwashed or worse!
    (Watch at 1:32 as the soccer ball comes out of the pod.)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFnSxeDfENk

  27. EddieInCA says:

    @ernieyeball:

    Your original comment of an athlete not being a worldwide star because Americans don’t know of him just reeked of “We’re America, and if Americans don’t know who they are, then they aren’t really big stars”. If that wasn’t your intent, then I apologize, but as written, its what I inferred.

    I’m reminded when Ricky Martin went on a US talk show in NYC and was asked if he was nervous about performing before such a large crowd of 13,000 people. Ricky politely reminded the airhead interviewing him that he had recently performed at the Olympic Stadium in Seoul, Korea in front of 68,000 people. To this woman on TV, the fact that she didn’t know who Ricky Martin was meant that he wasn’t well known. To the rest of the world, Ricky Martin was a star long before “Living La Vida Loca”. To American’s, that’s when it started.

    It’s not willful ignorance, but it’s still ignorance.

    “Murika!!!!”

  28. ernieyeball says:

    And Since he was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Ricky Martin is a natural born “Murikan” Citizen!
    USA! USA! USA!
    As for him being a World Wide Star, there just ain’t no accountin’ for peoples taste…