Platini makes last gasp bid to make Blatter quit
European football chief Michel Platini made a face-to-face call on FIFA president Sepp Blatter to stand down at a meeting of world federation leaders on Thursday amid mounting outrage over a corruption storm.
He said Blatter refused and was determined to remain in a vote for the FIFA presidency at a congress on Friday which has even drawn global political leaders into the fray.
British Prime Minister David Cameron backed the calls for Blatter to resign. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, whose country beat England to get the 2018 World Cup, supported Blatter for a fifth term.
Platini said he confronted the 79-year-old Blatter at an emergency meeting of the heads of the the six regional confederations.
The UEFA president said he was “sickened” and “disgusted” at the events which led to the arrest of seven top football officials, including two FIFA vice presidents, at a Zurich hotel on Wednesday. They are among 14 people accused by US authorities of taking more than $150 million in bribes.
“Today I have come to ask you to quit FIFA, to resign from FIFA, to leave FIFA because its image is bad and we can no longer go on like this,” Platini said he told Blatter in front of the other presidents.
Blatter only replied in a private conversation after Platini repeated the demand. “He told me: ‘Michel we know each other well, but it’s too late. I cannot leave today when the Congress starts this afternoon.”
– mounting pressure –
Blatter reaffirmed his determination to stay in charge of the multi-billion dollar football body despite mounting pressure over the arrests and a separate Swiss police inquiry into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Credit card giant Visa said it would “reassess” its sponsorship of FIFA unless it takes immediate action to clean up the sport.
Unless FIFA rebuilds a corporate culture with “strong ethical practices” at its heart, “we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship,” Visa said in a statement.
Coca-Cola, Adidas, McDonald’s and Budweiser also spoke out against the corruption scandal. Corporate backers provide hundreds of millions of dollars to FIFA’s finances.
The FIFA leader stayed out of the public eye ahead of the congress opening failing to turn up at several meetings he would normally attend.
Blatter has not been personally implicated in the scandals and Swiss authorities said there were no immediate plans to question him as part of their investigation.
UEFA had called for Friday’s vote to be postponed because of the corruption arrests. But other regional groups said it would go ahead and UEFA said it would not boycott the vote.
Platini said that a “very, very, very large majority” of the 54 European nations would back Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan, the FIFA vice president who is the only challenger to Blatter in the vote.
He called on other regions to back the prince. But African and Asian groups say they are still backing Blatter.
Seven football officials remained in custody on Thursday, with six indicating they will fight extradition to the United States, Swiss authorities said.
Governments from around the world waded into the increasingly bitter and political battle.
– ‘attempt to block Blatter’ –
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin slammed the Zurich arrests as a US attempt to oust Blatter.
“This is clearly an attempt to block the reelection of Blatter as president of FIFA and is an extremely serious breach of the principles of how international organisations work,” Putin said, accusing the United States of trying to “spread its jurisdiction to other countries”.
British leader Cameron backed calls by the English FA for Blatter to resign, his spokesman said.
FIFA vice presidents Jeffrey Webb — the current CONCACAF chief — and Eugenio Figueredo, a former head of the South American confederation, were among the seven arrested by Zurich police.
Jack Warner, a former vice president, appeared in a Port of Spain court Wednesday before a judge who set his bail at $394,000, according to Trinidad and Tobago media.
Warner has denied any wrongdoing. But two of his sons have pleaded guilty to charges related to the US investigation into bribery and kickbacks involving FIFA officials and sports marketing firms.
The US investigation said South African officials paid $10 million in bribes to host the 2010 tournament. Some bribes were handed over in a briefcase stuffed with $10,000 bundles of cash.
But the South African government on Thursday denied any wrongdoing.
“When we concluded the FIFA World Cup here in South Africa we got a clean audit report,” said Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, who was on the local organising committee.
“There has never been any suggestion that anything untoward happened in South Africa.”