Just four days after being re-elected for a fifth term, Sepp Blatter announced Tuesday he is resigning as FIFA president at a news conference in Zurich. The decision comes a week after nine FIFA officials were charged following a U.S. investigation into widespread corruption throughout world soccer’s governing body over the past 20 years. An extraordinary congress has been called to select a new president of the international soccer governing body. Blatter will resign as soon as a successor is picked.
“My mandate does not appear to be supported by everybody,” said the 79-year-old. “This is why I will call an extraordinary meeting.”
After Blatter’s statement, the head of FIFA's audit and compliance committee, Domenico Scala, revealed the next steps.
“I am dedicated to putting into place the conditions for the election of a new president,” he said during the hastily convened news conference. “There will be reforms to how the elections are conducted. Under the rules governing FIFA, the election must be voted on by members at the FIFA congress.”
Blatter, who has worked for FIFA for four decades, had appeared set to ride out the biggest storm of his 17-year presidency and the largest scandal in the organization’s 111-year existence, having survived a challenge from Jordan's Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein in Friday’s election. At the time Blatter spoke confidently that he was the man to lead FIFA to calmer waters.
However, his decision to step down came a day after it emerged that FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke was the official who signed off on a $10 million payment to FIFA official Jack Warner that, according to a U.S. indictment, constituted a bribe for voting in favor of South Africa hosting the 2010 World Cup. A letter from the South African Football Association was addressed to Valcke, containing detailed instructions for the 2008 payment to the then-head of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, also known as Concacaf.
FIFA has stated that the payment was for a “project to support the African diaspora in Caribbean countries as part of the World Cup legacy.” The governing body has also said that the payment was authorized by Julio Grondona, who was finance committee chairman and also served as the long-standing president of the Argentine Football Association. Grondona died last year.
The payment was a key part of the corruption scandal that last week led to Swiss authorities charging nine current or former FIFA officials and five media and marketing executives in the U.S.-instigated investigation into racketeering, conspiracy and corruption. According to the U.S. indictments, the $10 million was siphoned off into Warner’s personal accounts, with $750,000 going to his deputy at Concacaf, Chuck Blazer, in return for voting in favor of South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup.