ZURICH — Sepp Blatter was re-elected as FIFA president for a fifth term on
Friday, chosen to lead world soccer despite separate U.S. and Swiss criminal
investigations into corruption.
The 209 FIFA member federations gave the 79-year-old Blatter another four-year
term after Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan conceded defeat after losing
133-73 in the first round.
Prince Ali’s promise of a clean break from FIFA’s tarnished recent history was
rejected despite the worst scandal in the organization’s 111-year history.
The election went ahead Friday after U.S. and Swiss federal investigations
struck at the heart of Blatter’s “football family” this week. Two FIFA vice
presidents and a recently elected FIFA executive committee member were still in
custody Friday as the votes were counted.
Still, soccer leaders worldwide stayed loyal to their embattled president of 17
years, even though Prince Ali pushed the election to a second round by getting a
surprising 73 votes.
Before the second round started, Prince Ali stood and before the congress and
Blatter has blamed others for bringing shame and humiliation on the sport. In a
pre-election address to voters on Friday, Blatter said it was “impossible” for
him and FIFA to “keep an eye” on everyone and be responsible for everything
that happened in world soccer.
Blatter won despite calls for his resignation from UEFA president Michel
Platini and others. Platini said Thursday that UEFA could pull out of FIFA and
withdraw from the World Cup if Blatter was re-elected.
FIFA’s big-money sponsors have also called for change within FIFA. Visa warned
Thursday that it could pull out of its contract, which is worth at least $25
million a year through 2022.
The defeated 39-year-old prince was a FIFA vice president for the past four
years with a close-up view of Blatter’s previous scandal-hit mandate.
Blatter was re-elected unopposed in 2011 after promising to fight corruption
and support key investigations of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests
and a bribery scandal which removed his Qatari opponent from the presidential
Those probes were conducted in-house by FIFA’s own judicial bodies. The latest
investigations promise deeper trouble for FIFA with federal law enforcement
agencies delving into soccer’s affairs.
Raids on FIFA’s favorite luxury downtown Zurich hotel and its own headquarters
were launched early Wednesday by Swiss police.
Senior FIFA officials were among seven men arrested at the request of American
federal prosecutors investigating bribery, money-laundering and wire fraud. The
2018 and 2022 World Cups _ awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively _ are the
focus of a separate Swiss federal probe of suspected financial wrongdoing.
Last November, Blatter and FIFA filed a criminal complaint with the Swiss
attorney general’s office against non-Swiss nationals.