/ 1 June 2011

Blatter to keep hand firmly on Fifa tiller

Blatter To Keep Hand Firmly On Fifa Tiller

Sepp Blatter is set to be re-elected as head of world football on Wednesday after attempts by English officials to force a postponement ended in a crushing defeat.

Blatter is poised to be returned to power for another four-year term in a vote by acclamation at about 2pm GMT after an English motion to halt the ballot was dismissed by 172 votes to 17.

Addressing delegates, English FA chairperson David Bernstein said proceeding with the election following the withdrawal of Blatter’s scandal-hit rival, Mohamed bin Hammam, would provide a “flawed mandate”.

But Fifa delegates dismissed the motion by a landslide, leaving the way clear for Blatter to be re-elected as head of the organisation that has been rocked by several weeks of damaging graft claims.

Speaking after the vote to reject a postponement, Blatter pledged to initiate wide-ranging reforms, including an overhaul of the way in which future World Cup hosts were chosen.

Crucially, Blatter said World Cups in future would be selected in a vote by all 208 Fifa members, rather than the 24-strong executive committee that has awarded hosting rights in the past.

Blatter (75) had fought a vicious election battle against former ally Bin Hammam, the Qatari head of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), who withdrew from the race on Sunday amid allegations of vote-buying.

Bin Hammam and influential Fifa vice-president Jack Warner were suspended by the organisation’s ethics committee pending an investigation into claims they offered cash bribes in a bid to topple Blatter.

Widespread criticism and allegations of corruption
The revelations followed testimony in the British Parliament last month that senior Fifa officials had sought cash and favours during the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

The decision to award the tiny oil-rich Gulf state of Qatar the 2022 tournament has met with widespread criticism and allegations of corruption.

Earlier on Wednesday, the head of Germany’s football federation, Theo Zwanziger, called for Fifa to re-examine Qatar’s victory in the 2022 race.

“I think there is a significant degree of suspicion that one cannot just dismiss,” Zwanziger told ZDF public television, when asked about calls for the sport’s world governing body to take away the event from Qatar.

“And that is why I reckon that the awarding of this World Cup must be re-examined with regard to these concerns,” he said.

Blatter’s pledges for reform came after several key sponsors spoke out against the negative impact that recent corruption scandals were having on the organisation.

Fifa’s sponsorship deals have helped to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for the organisation since Blatter took over in 1998, making Fifa the richest sports body on the planet with cash reserves of more than $1-billion.

“The current allegations being raised are distressing and bad for the sport,” Coca-Cola spokesperson Petro Kacur said.

“We have every expectation that Fifa will resolve this situation in an expedient and thorough manner.”

‘Punished before I was found guilty’
Meanwhile, Zhang Jilong, the Chinese official appointed as interim head of the AFC following Bin Hammam’s suspension, said no mercy would be shown to officials found guilty of corruption.

“The Asian football environment is not that healthy,” Zhang told Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. “We need, let’s say, revolution. We need reform.

“Scandals such as Bin Hammam’s bribery allegations harm the sport’s beauty. Anyone who does not show transparency should pay for it,” he said in separate comments published on Chinese website Sina.com.

In a formal protest to Fifa regarding his suspension, Bin Hammam said he had been given no chance to appeal the ban.

“I was punished before I was found guilty,” Bin Hammam said. — AFP