Fifa President Faces World Cup Boycott If Elected
A defiant Sepp Blatter refused to accept blame for Fifa's biggest ever crisis last night (Thursday) as he ignored the threat of a World Cup boycott over his presidency and vowed finally to clean up football's beleaguered world governing body.
Blatter admitted the damning criminal charges faced by several of his most senior executives following their arrests on Wednesday had brought "shame and humiliation" to the organisation he leads and warned there could be more to come.
But he snubbed more calls for him to resign - including from Prime Minister David Cameron - by insisting he could not be expected to take responsibility for the actions for those whose alleged pounds 100?million bribery scam had dragged Fifa's name "through the mud".
Blatter was facing an open revolt against his attempt to cling on to the presidency yesterday after Michel Platini, the Uefa president, refused to rule out European nations such as England boycotting the World Cup if the Swiss secured re-election this afternoon.
Former Manchester United chief executive David Gill also announced he would quit the Fifa executive committee he is poised to join today unless Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein defied the odds by toppling Blatter.
Opening Fifa's annual congress in Zurich last night, Blatter demonstrated his determination to ride out the latest storm to engulf him.
"These are unprecedented and difficult times for Fifa," Blatter said. "The events of yesterday have cast a long shadow over football and over this week's congress. Actions of individuals, if proven, bring shame and humiliation on football and demand action and change from us all.
"We cannot allow the reputation of football and Fifa to be dragged through the mud any longer. It has to stop here and now.
"I know many people hold me ultimately responsible for the actions and reputation of the global football community, whether it's a decision for the hosting of the World Cup, or a corruption scandal.
"We, or I, cannot monitor everyone all of the time. If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it. But it must fall to me to bear the responsibility for the reputation and wellbeing of our organisation and to find a way forward to fix things. The next few months will not be easy for Fifa. But it is necessary to begin to restore trust in our organisation."
Blatter spoke hours after his one-time ally and current vice-president Platini claimed Uefa was "open to all options", including withdrawing from Fifa altogether if Blatter extended his 17-year reign.
Uefa had considered boycotting the congress, but rowed back from that measure.
Platini said he was so "disgusted" by the corruption claims made against Fifa officials in a 164-page United States Department of Justice indictment that he had tried to talk Blatter into resigning.
Following a face-to-face showdown with his former mentor during an emergency meeting of confederation heads yesterday morning, Platini claimed Blatter told him it was "too late" to quit and that he might have done so had the Frenchman approached him weeks earlier.
That version of events is understood to be disputed by the Swiss, who nevertheless refused to walk away.
Platini insisted he did not want European countries to boycott the World Cup but warned "there may be proposals" to do so if Blatter won today. He remains a heavy favourite to do so, despite widespread support for his opponent by Uefa.
Platini said at least 45 of its 53 voting members would back Prince Ali, who was said to have promised to deliver the remaining 60 votes that would see him triumph.
That flew in the face of renewed pledges of support for Blatter by the all-important African and Asian confederations, which represent almost half of Fifa's 209 members.
He will also be backed by several European associations, including World Cup hosts Russia, whose president Vladimir Putin yesterday launched an attack on the FBI-led arrest of senior football officials.
A close election could lead to Uefa calling an extraordinary general meeting of Fifa at which it would table a vote of no confidence against Blatter that might convince some of the Swiss's allies to turn on him.
Uefa's other Fifa executive committee members may also follow Gill's lead in quitting their positions in protest. Football Association vice-chairman Gill was applauded by his Uefa colleagues when he made his announcement yesterday.
South Africa's sports minister yesterday denied any wrongdoing by his country's government. Fikile Mbalula said: "We've got no reasons to have sleepless nights."