Sepp Blatter has been re-elected to serve a fifth term as FIFA president, shaking off a corruption scandal that has rocked world soccer’s governing body and the 79-year-old’s leadership in recent days. The Swiss administrator held off the challenge of Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, winning Friday’s election after his sole challenger conceded following the first round of voting. Blatter took 133 votes to Ali’s 73, falling short of the 139 required to get a two-thirds majority from the 209 member associations. A second round of voting was scheduled, when a simple majority would have been needed, but Ali negated the need for it when he walked to the stage at the Zurich congress to deliver a short concession speech.
“I just wanted to thank all of you, it’s been a wonderful journey, in terms of knowing you, working with you, seeing the challenges you have,” he said. “I want to thank in particular all of you who were brave enough to vote for me.”
Blatter, who has been involved with FIFA since 1975 and became president in 1998, faced the most significant challenge yet of his reign after the biggest corruption scandal in the organization’s 111-year history descended on Zurich this week. Nine current or former FIFA officials and five media and marketing executives were arrested Wednesday on charges of racketeering, conspiracy and corruption. But Blatter defiantly vowed to fight on, despite an emergency meeting with the six confederation heads on Thursday that ended with Michel Platini, the president of Europe’s governing soccer body UEFA, making a personal plea for Blatter to step down.
Ali, the brother of King Abdullah of Jordan, was, at 39, the youngest of FIFA’s vice presidents and emerged as the sole opposition candidate to Blatter in the closing days of the campaign. Support, chiefly from UEFA, coalesced behind the prince after fellow anti-Blatter candidates former Portugal international Luis Figo and Dutch Football Association chairman Michael van Praag withdrew from the race.
With Blatter maintaining his grip on power, the attention will now turn to what could still be significant fallout from this week’s events. UEFA has refused to rule out a potential boycott from the 2018 World Cup in Russia, while former Manchester United chief executive David Gill stated he would resign his post on the FIFA executive committee if Blatter stayed in power. Further legal challenges to the organization and Blatter's leadership could also be forthcoming. The U.S. Department of Justice has vowed that Wednesday’s arrests were just the beginning of their actions, and Swiss authorities have launched a separate investigation into the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and 2022 competition to Qatar.
But after being re-elected to remain as president until 2019, he was emphatic that he was the man to steer FIFA to clearer waters.
"I thank you that you have accepted me for the next four years." he said. "I will be in command of this boat called FIFA and we will bring it back off shore.
“I have said I take responsibility to bring back FIFA -- we do it, we do it, we do it, and I am convinced we can do it. I am a faithful man, and I said God, Allah or whoever, they will help us to bring back this FIFA where it should be. And I promise you I will give FIFA to my successor in a very, very strong position.”