|Who to vote for? The FIFA ballot box stands ready [AFP]|
Sepp Blatter was voted in unopposed for a further four years as FIFA president at the 61st FIFA congress in Zurich on Wednesday.
Blatter was seeking a final term and won 186 votes out of 203 ballots despite the best efforts of the English Football Association.
Their motion for a delay to give any new candidate a chance to stand was overwhelmingly defeated, with only 17 delegates voting in favour and 172 against.
“Together we will have four years…to continue on our path and to do our job,” Blatter told delegates after winning the popular vote.
“I’m happy that we were able to bring this solidarity, this unity into FIFA, allowing us to move forward with a positive standpoint.”
He added: “I’m deeply moved, I’m honoured.”
Blatter needed 50 per cent plus one of the vote to secure re-election.
Before the ballot, Blatter had pledged “radical reform” of a world governing body damaged by corruption claims.
The 75-year-old Swiss, who has headed FIFA since 1998, said: “Reforms will be made, not just touch-ups but radical decisions and necessary reforms.
“We must do something because I do not want ever again the institution of FIFA to face this again, which I must say is undignified.”
FIFA’s problems are far from over with the president under pressure from Germany, one of football’s most powerful national associations, to investigate the process that saw Qatar awarded the 2022 World Cup.
“There is a considerable degree of suspicion that one cannot simply sweep aside,” German FA chief Theo Zwanziger told German television earlier on Wednesday.
Blatter traced FIFA’s problems back to last year’s vote, when the inner circle of executive committee members chose Russia to host the World Cup in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.
He promised on Wednesday to shift power to award future World Cup hosting rights to FIFA’s full 208-member congress, though the 2026 World Cup will not be up for grabs for another six or seven years.
“Where does all this evil come from which is now in FIFA?” he asked before answering his own question.
“It has to do with the popularity of our competition, the flagship competition, the World Cup. The attribution of the World Cup… kicked off a wave of accusations, proposals, allegations, criticism and they are still coming.”
FIFA is facing what its own general secretary called a “watershed moment”, with the current crisis being widely compared to the Salt Lake City corruption case the International Olympic Committee had to deal with in 1998.
The IOC’s response was to introduce strict limits on members visiting bid cities and Blatter will need to provide more detail of his plans to satisfy critics he is serious about reform.
Blatter has led FIFA through a period of unprecedented prosperity on the sale of TV rights and sponsorship.
But the game’s reputation has been put under the microscope after a spate of corruption allegations, the suspension of two senior FIFA officials and suggestions Qatar bought the World Cup, which the Gulf state has denied.
Blatter stood standing unopposed in the elected after Asian Football Confederation boss Mohamed bin Hammam dropped out of the race.
The Qatari Bin Hammam was subsequently suspended pending an investigation into claims that he bribed some Caribbean delegates and he was not allowed to attend the Congress.
Bin Hammam and FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, who was also suspended, have denied any wrongdoing.
In another twist Chuck Blazer – an American whose whistle-blowing led to the suspension of Bin Hammam and Trinidadian Warner – was sacked on Tuesday from his position on the regional soccer body CONCACAF.
An hour later, that organisation, which runs football in North and Central America and the Caribbean, declared the dismissal invalid.
FIFA has also faced criticism from four of its six top-tier sponsors while England’s FA defended its decision to try to get the election postponed.
“While we did not succeed in deferring the FIFA presidential election, it was positive to be joined by 16 other nations in supporting our democratic request for the vote to be delayed,” said chairman David Bernstein in a statement.
“We are confident the FA has played a significant role as a catalyst for change in the way World Cup hosts will be selected in the future.”