On the eve of FIFA’s presidential election in Zurich, Sepp Blatter addressed an auditorium full of FIFA officials, just 24 hours after the shocking corruption scandal which has rocked the world of soccer.
[ FULL COVERAGE: FIFA scandal ]
Blatter, 79, is widely expected to be re-elected for his fifth-term as FIFA’s president on Friday when member associations vote in Zurich. Earlier on Thursday Blatter was asked to step down by UEFA’s president Michel Platini but refused as the long-time leader of world soccer’s governing body — who many blame for FIFA’s scandals over the years — is sticking around.
Despite being the leader of FIFA since 1998, Blatter was not arrested along with nine FIFA officials and 14 individuals in total on Wednesday as the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice worked with the Swiss authorities to conduct early-morning raids in Zurich. A fresh Swiss investigation into the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups will also take place as dark days lie ahead for FIFA.
Speaking publicly about the damning allegations of corruption, here is Blatter’s address to the congress in Zurich ahead of the huge vote tomorrow.
“Ladies and gentleman, dear friends. You will agree with me that these are unprecedented and difficult times for FIFA. 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 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 for the global football community. Whether it is a decision for the hosting of a World Cup or a corruption scandal. 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 be responsible for the reputation and well-being of our organization and to find a way forward to fix things. I will not allow the actions of a few to destroy the hard work and integrity of the vast majority of those who work so hard for football.
“I must stress that those who are corrupting football are in the thin minority. Like in society. But like in society they must be caught and held responsible for their actions. Football cannot be the exception of the rule. That is our responsibility at FIFA. We will cooperate with all authorities that anyone involved in wrongdoing from top to bottom is discovered and punished. There can be no place for corruption of any kind. The next few months will not be easy for FIFA. I am sure more bad news will follow but it is necessary to begin to restore trust in our organization. Let this be the turning point. More needs to be done to make sure everyone in football behaves responsibly and ethically.
“And everywhere, outside of the field of play, where there are no referees, no boundaries and no time limits. Football, the fans, the places, the clubs the world deserves so much more. We must respond tomorrow. Tomorrow the congress, we have the opportunity to begin on what will be a long and difficult road to rebuilding trust. We have lost their trust… and we must now earn it back. We must earn it back through the decisions we make and expectations we place on each other and through the way we behave individually.”