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Blatter claims there is no crisis at FIFA

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According to FIFA president Sepp Blatter, the organization isn’t facing a crisis, even though executive committee members Jack Warner and Mohammed Bin Hammam are two of four delegates who have been suspended over bribery allegations.

“We are not in a crisis,” said Blatter in a press conference Monday from FIFA headquarters. “We are having some difficulties.” Blatter spent the better part of 45 minutes ducking and dodging questions from journalists. When two-part questions were asked, he insisted on answering only one. When questions were asked about FIFA’s reputation, he spoke of gambling in the game. When asked about reforming FIFA, he spoke of zero tolerance for abuse of officials on the field. There was talk about eradicating the “devils” who gamble on football matches. And, he ended the conference by bickering with angry journalists over ethics and protocol. He asked that they show him respect.

Clearly, by the tone of the questions from the journalists who attended the conference, by the reactions on Twitter (see the #nextFIFApresident hashtag on Twitter that The 11 launched). The hashtag #BlatterOut rocketed to the top of the worldwide charts.

Blatter stands to run unopposed for re-election on Wednesday. But he did acknowledge that the election can be removed from the meeting agenda if 75 per cent of the delegates move to do so.

That’s an interesting scenario; because Wednesday’s vote isn’t so much an election as it is a vote of confidence. Bin Hammam withdrew from the presidential race before he was suspended, accused of offering bribes to Caribbean delegates in exchange for votes in a May 10-11 meeting that was facilitated by Warner, CONCACAF’s head. Blatter himself was cleared of wrongdoing, even though Warner alleged that the FIFA chief offered US$1 million in funding to CONCACAF officials that he didn’t have the power to grant.

“I regret what has happened in the last few days and weeks — great damage to the image of FIFA, and great disappointment, especially to the football fans,” said Blatter.

FIFA has stressed over and over that Warner and Bin Hammam are innocent until proven guilty. Blatter also announced that nothing in reports sent to FIFA from the English FA warranted further investigation against four delegates accused of corruption. Earlier, Lord Triesman had claimed the voting process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups was compromised by four members, including Warner, asking for favours from the England bid camp in exchange for votes.

“The World Cup 2022 is not touched by that, nor is the World Cup 2018,” said Blatter.

As Blatter prepared to speak to the media, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke issued a statement in which he attempted to clarify his statement that Qatar “bought” the World Cup.

On Sunday night, suspended CONCACAF president Jack Warner released the contents of an e-mail sent to him by Valcke with that damning statement.

“Mr. Warner has published an e-mail which I sent to him,” stated Valcke in a release. “I’d like to clarify that I may use in an e-mail — a ‘lighter’ way of expression by nature — a much less formal tone than in any form of correspondence. Having said that, when I refer to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in that e-mail, what I wanted to say is that the winning bid used their financial strength to lobby for support. They were a candidate with a very important budget and have used it to heavily promote their bid all around the world in a very efficient manner. I have at no time made, or was intending to make, any reference to any purchase of votes or similar unethical behaviour. I would also like to clarify that there is, as I said yesterday, no investigation open at FIFA regarding the 2022 FIFA World Cup host election.”

The statement is clearly a sign that Valcke is not going to allow the pressure being placed on him by Warner or a furious Qatar bid committee —which is now consulting its lawyers — to force him from his position. Bin Hammam has also released his written statement he made to the FIFA Ethics Committee. Read it HERE.

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