Following the stunning news that Sepp Blatter is to resign as FIFA’s president, the soccer world is in shock.
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Blatter, 79, was only re-elected as FIFA’s leading man for a fifth-straight four year term last Friday but four days later he has decided to step down after 17 years in charge.
One of the main reasons behind Blatter’s stunning decision could be that his secretary general, Jerome Valcke, has now been linked to alleged corruption.
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The New York Times reported late on Monday that Valcke allegedly made a $10-million transfer in 2008 to the accounts of Jack Warner, former CONCACAF president and FIFA vice president, who faces corruption charges in the U.S.
Valcke and Blatter were not arrested when 14 people were indicted, including nine FIFA officials, for corruption and bribery last Wednesday in Switzerland by Swiss officials on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI.
FBI officials are said to believe that the money was allegedly paid as a bribe in exchange for votes to give the 2010 World Cup to South Africa. Former South African President Thabo Mbeki has denied they paid bribes for votes and the bid chief of the 2010 tournament has since said the $10 million was for Warner’s “regional confederation to help with soccer development in the Caribbean.”
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Something doesn’t add up, as the corruption charges now seem to have come a lot closer to home for Blatter than previously thought with his right-hand man Valcke now being directly linked. Since the fresh report was released on Tuesday, Valcke has sent an email claiming to the Times claiming that he did not have access to authorize the payment and Blatter has also rejected he made it.
On Tuesday a FIFA spokesperson said the payment was authorized in 2008 by the then-finance committee chairman, per FIFA regulations. The chairman, Julio Grondona, died last year.
We will find out soon enough how significant the claims about Valcke are in Blatter stepping away, but quite how Blatter went from winning a fifth-straight term as FIFA boss on Friday and promising to rid the game of corruption, to then walking away four days later is mind-boggling. But with Valcke under intense scrutiny and plenty more information regarding senior FIFA officials to come, Blatter seems to have got out while he can.