Uefa, European football’s governing body, has said the election to choose a new president for international organisation Fifa should be postponed following the arrest of soccer officials in Zurich.
Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino said last night the corruption probe into Fifa “tarnish the image of football as a whole” and said European football associations will debate today whether to boycott this week’s Fifa congress in the Swiss city.
The hard-hitting allegations were made by US authorities, raising massive questions over the organisation’s presidential election tomorrow and the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar.
Infantino said Uefa’s executive committee, which met yesterday, wants “a change to the leadership” of Fifa, with the congress to be postponed and new elections held within six months.
Uefa’s leadership has supported Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein of Jordan in the Fifa ballot scheduled for tomorrow, where Fifa president Sepp Blatter is strongly favoured to win a fifth, four-year term.
Seven officials including Fifa vice-president Jeffrey Webb from the Cayman Islands were arrested by Swiss authorities on behalf of the US department of justice which has indicted 18 people alleging bribery totalling over $150m (€137m).
In a separate development, the Swiss attorney general opened criminal proceedings over the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, seized documents and electronic data from Fifa’s headquarters and will question 10 current Fifa executive committee members who voted on that tournament.
Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino, speaking in Warsaw ahead of the Europa League final, said in a statement: “Uefa believes that the Fifa congress should be postponed and that the election for the president should take place within six months.”
The full Uefa statement following an executive committee meeting said yesterday’s events were “a disaster for Fifa and tarnish the image of football as a whole”.
It added: “Uefa is deeply shocked and saddened by them. These events show, once again, that corruption is deeply rooted in Fifa’s culture. There is a need for the whole of Fifa to be ”rebooted“ and for a real reform to be carried out.
“The upcoming Fifa congress risks to turn into a farce and therefore the European associations will have to consider carefully if they should even attend this congress and caution a system, which, if it is not stopped, will ultimately kill football.”
The Uefa member associations are due to meet today ahead of the congress.
Uefa said last night: “At that point, the European associations will decide on what further steps need to be taken to protect the game of football.”
Fifa president Sepp Blatter issued a statement saying: “This is a difficult time for football, the fans and for Fifa as an organisation.
“We understand the disappointment that many have expressed and I know that the events of [yesterday] will impact the way in which many people view us.
“As unfortunate as these events are, it should be clear that we welcome the actions and the investigations by the US and Swiss authorities and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that Fifa has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football.
“While there will be many who are frustrated with the pace of change, I would like to stress the actions that we have taken and will continue to take.
“In fact, [yesterday’s] action by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General was set in motion when we submitted a dossier to the Swiss authorities late last year.
“Let me be clear: Such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game.
“Following the events of [yesterday], the independent Ethics Committee — which is in the midst of its own proceedings regarding the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 Fifa World Cups— took swift action to provisionally ban those individuals named by the authorities from any football-related activities at the national and international level.”
The Asian Football Confederation later issued a statement opposing any delay in the election.
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