Sepp Blatter brushed off a stunt by an English comedian to categorically state he will not stand in next year’s FIFA presidential election – and sent a ’good luck’ message to Michel Platini, the man who is favourite to succeed him.
FIFA’s executive committee has decided the date of the special congress to elect Blatter’s successor to be February 26 next year – meaning the 79-year-old will remain in power for another seven months.
At a news conference in Zurich, Blatter for the first time stated unequivocally that he will not stand again – and said he would try for a new career in radio.
Blatter, who was showered with fake money by British comedian Simon Brodkin - better known by stage name Lee Nelson – in a bizarre incident at the start of the news conference, said: “I will not be a candidate for the election in 2016 and there will be election for a new president. I cannot be the new president because I am the old president.
“I wish good luck to all the candidates and also to Michel Platini.
“On February 26 FIFA will have a new president and I think I will go back to my work as a journalist – this time I will go to radio as this is the most popular item in information.”
Blatter also announced a new FIFA task force to bring in reforms ahead of the next congress, including term limits for officials, central integrity checks for executive committee members and disclosing all salaries and payments to FIFA members. Blatter refused to reveal his salary, however, saying he would do so when all the financial details are disclosed.
Blatter announced on June 2 that he will step down as president, four days after being re-elected for a fifth term in office, after the corruption crisis that engulfed FIFA.
US justice authorities have indicted 18 people on football-related corruption charges while Swiss prosecutors have launched a separate investigation into bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups being hosted by Russia and Qatar respectively.
Former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer has pleaded guilty to corruption charges including accepting bribes to vote for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup.
Blatter admitted the pressure of the crisis had pushed him into announcing he will step down.
He said: “It was not only the pressure of the [justice] authorities but also the pressure of the political interference and the pressure of the media. I had to do something very special and I did it – I kicked the ball out of the field in order to stop something.
“I had to do something for FIFA not for me and my mission now is to defend my institution of FIFA.”
Platini could make an announcement on his candidacy before the end of the week and released a statement welcoming the election date and the reform process.
He said: “ I feel that the creation of a task force with internal and external members to deal specifically with reforms is an important step towards improving overall processes and transparency within the organisation. We must now make sure that the reforms outlined today will be undertaken in a swift and effective manner. As I have said various times in the recent past, we need to reform FIFA and we need to do it now.
“Regarding the election, we now have a concrete date which means we can look forward to new leadership which will surely bring with it new ideas and new solutions. This is an exciting time for FIFA because we can work together to improve it and restructure it for the good of the game.”