Sepp Blatter’s decision this week to resign as FIFA president just four days after he was re-elected will not stop Russia’s preparations to host the 2018 World Cup, the Kremlin confirmed Wednesday. Blatter announced his decision Tuesday in a move that Russian officials said was a surprise.
“We still have no information on the reasons for this resignation. Mr. Blatter will keep fulfilling his duties until the next congress, therefore the work continues and cooperation with FIFA continues,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian-operated news outlet TASS. “Most importantly, Russia continues preparations for the World Cup 2018. All plans are being implemented, the work is underway.”
Blatter prevailed over sole opponent Prince Ali bin al-Hussein in a presidential election last week at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland, mere hours after U.S. authorities announced the arrests and indictments of several current and former FIFA executives on corruption charges. Blatter was not among the officials who were charged, but in a shocking turn, he decided to step down from his post, citing FIFA’s need to overhaul its power structure amid the unprecedented scandal. FIFA will hold an “extraordinary elective congress” within the next few months to choose Blatter’s successor.
“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 – the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at FIFA,” Blatter said in a statement. “Therefore, I have decided to lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective congress. I will continue to exercise my functions as FIFA President until that election.”
The Kremlin’s statement came just days after Russia announced plans to spend $185 million on World Cup preparation in 2016 alone. The international soccer tournament will take place from June to July in 2018 and will be held in 12 Russia cities, including Moscow and St. Petersburg. Every one of FIFA’s 208 member nations has applied to participate in the 2018 World Cup, while Russia will receive an automatic entry due to its role as host.
Corruption allegations have swirled around Russia’s successful bid to host the 2018 World Cup for years. External pressure led FIFA to launch an independent investigation into accusations of bribery during the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding processes. Ultimately, FIFA opted late last year not to release the investigation’s results to the public, which led investigator Michael J. Garcia to resign in protest.