Uefa president Michel Platini declared “enough is enough” and in a face-to-face showdown demanded that Blatter quit — with the European countries set to mount further challenges to the Swiss’ authority if the 79-year-old wins today’s election against Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein.
Platini warned all options would be considered — and did not rule out a World Cup boycott — while sponsors turned up the heat on Blatter. Virgin chairman Richard Branson even called on companies to ditch their ties with the world governing body.
It comes after the dawn raid by Swiss police on Wednesday saw seven Fifa officials including Jeffrey Webb, a Fifa vice-president from the Cayman Islands who holds a British passport and fellow vice-president, Eugenio Figueredo from Uruguay. All are challenging extradition to the USA where authorities have indicted 18 people on corruption charges.
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Blatter, however, refused to resign and tackled the crisis at the Fifa Congress opening ceremony, referring to “unprecedented and difficult times for Fifa” and saying corruption brought “shame and humiliation on football”.
He said: “It must fall to me for the well-being of our organisation to find the way forward to fix things.
“Actions of individuals bring shame and humiliation on football and demand action and change. We cannot allow the reputation of football and Fifa to be dragged through the mud any longer, it has to stop — here and now.”
Platini did not rule out the possibility of a World Cup boycott but said Uefa members may follow the example of English FA vice-chairman David Gill, who said he will refuse to serve on Fifa’s executive committee if Blatter is re-elected. Platini said Uefa would unite behind Prince Ali and when asked if a boycott of Fifa competitions was a possibility, replied: “Uefa associations will meet in Berlin next week. We will be open to all options.”
Pressed further on the prospect of a World Cup boycott, Platini added: “There may be proposals. I honestly don’t wish that.”
FAI chief executive John Delaney has said that while his heart wants Blatter to lose today’s vote, his head tells him that he will win.
“We’ve been asked by the leaders of European football to vote for Prince Ali instead of voting for Sepp Blatter,” he said after a meeting of Uefa in Zurich. “The most important thing would be that all 53 countries in Uefa would vote as a bloc and you can never be assured of that given the connections Blatter would have to certain countries and given some of the geographical breakdown. We’ll have to wait for the outcome of the vote (but) if you were to ask me honestly, my heart says that I’d love Blatter to lose but my head says that Blatter will win.”
Speaking on Newstalk, Delaney added: “Platini made the case that the only way he could be removed is by votes or by court action and we’ve all seen the events of yesterday and what events might come to pass over the next couple of years, you’d never know. It’s like a movie at the moment.”
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Sepp Blatter and Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein will both have opportunities to address the Fifa Congress. Each of Fifa’s 209 associations should have a vote, although a few can face disqualification for reasons such as not playing in competitions. If either candidate achieves two-thirds of the eligible vote in the first round then he wins outright — if there are 209 votes that means 139 to win outright.
If there is no outright victory, the winner will simply be whoever gains more votes in the second round.