Sepp Blatter won a fifth term as FIFA president, while people around the world called for him to resign. The soccer organization has been rocked this week by arrests and corruption charges.
The 65th FIFA annual congress took place in Zurich, Switzerland. It is the same city where U.S. and Swiss authorities arrested senior FIFA officials at their luxury hotel two days ago.
The voting went beyond the first round before Mr. Blatter’s only opponent, Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan, gave up and said Mr. Blatter had won. The U.S. and European organizations backed Prince Ali and had called for change at the top of FIFA.
The 79-year-old Mr. Blatter has been the leader of FIFA since 1998. Several current vice-presidents under Mr. Blatter are among the 14 officials charged with corruption. The U.S. government says the crimes date back 24 years. Mr. Blatter says he did not do anything wrong, and he has not been charged with any crimes.
After winning the vote, Mr. Blatter said, “I am not perfect, nobody is perfect.” He added that he “takes the responsibility to bring back FIFA.”
Calls for Blatter to step down
In Berlin before the vote, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron called for Mr. Blatter to step down, saying “the sooner that happens the better." Mr. Cameron said, “you cannot have accusations of corruption at this level and on this scale in this organization and pretend that the person currently leading it is the right person to take it forward.”
Two major European football associations also had called on Mr. Blatter to resign before Friday’s election. But he refused to do so. Instead, Mr. Blatter called for unity among the FIFA members and he promised to work to overcome the group’s problems if he is re-elected.
Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the U.S. corruption case. In televised comments he said that the case is an attempt by the U.S. to spread its legal control to other countries. American law says that if some part of the crime took place in the United States, then U.S. officials can arrest foreign citizens involved in those crimes.
Mr. Putin also said it was an “obvious attempt” by the U.S. to prevent Mr. Blatter’s reelection as FIFA president. Russia supports Mr. Blatter as head of FIFA.
More investigations on FIFA ahead
The U.S. Justice Department charged 14 people with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering, among other offenses. All of these crimes, officials say go back to 1991. The defendants are alleged to have paid well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks. They made those payments so they could get media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.
In addition to the U.S. case, Swiss authorities are conducting a separate investigation. They are looking into charges connected to the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
Germany's Justice Minister Heiko Maas spoke to the German daily Bild on Friday. He said those World Cup decisions can't stand if it turns out that votes were bought. Qatar said its bid for the World Cup was done with “integrity.”
Britain’s Serious Fraud Office said Friday it is examining information about possible corruption at FIFA. But it has not begun a formal criminal investigation. The United Nations is reviewing its partnerships with FIFA following the corruption reports, a U.N. spokesman said Thursday.
Businesses to review sponsorships
Meanwhile, business sponsors are saying they might pull their support of the soccer organization. The credit card company Visa issued a statement expressing “profound” disappointment. Without reforms, Visa said, the company would look at its sponsorship of FIFA.
Coca-Cola said it has repeatedly expressed concerns about the allegations. It said it expects FIFA to thoroughly examine the issues. Adidas called on the soccer organization to “follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do.” Budweiser and McDonald’s also are reconsidering their sponsorships.
I’m Anne Ball.
Anne Ball reported and wrote this story. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
corruption – n. dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people
luxury – adj. situation of wealth and great comfort
racketeering –n. crime of making money through illegal activities
wire fraud –n. crime of stealing money by using computers, telephones, etc.
money laundering –n. hiding the origins of illegally obtained money
alleged –adj. accused of having done something illegal but not yet proven guilty
bribe – n. something valuable, like money, given to get someone to do something