Amid a tidal wave of scrutiny, Sepp Blatter, acting president of FIFA, announced Tuesday, June 2 in a last minute press conference that he will be stepping down from the presidency. FIFA, the world football organization, has come under fire recently after the United States arrested 14 of its executives under allegations of widespread corruption.
“FIFA needs a profound restructuring,” said Blatter. “I appreciate and love FIFA more than anything else,” he said. “And I only want to do the best for FIFA.”
After 17 years, the 79-year-old Blatter steps down as the most powerful man in football, mere days after he won a fifth term as the organization’s head. The timing of his announcement is overshadowed by a deep global distrust in FIFA after news broke of bribery and corruption within the world football governing body. European representatives have been calling for Blatter’s resignation for weeks as corruption allegations were brought against the organization.
The Independent reported Tuesday that European nations are considering a boycott of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, citing the ongoing corruption scandal as precedent. The planned 2022 World Cup site, Qatar, is also battling its fair share of controversy after news broke that Nepalese workers in the nation are treated no better than slaves.
Blatter was re-elected on Friday, but overwhelming criticism over the re-election has since forced Blatter and FIFA to reconsider. FIFA has promised “fundamental changes” to its policies as the investigation into the organization’s corruption charges continue.
After his reelection, just five days ago, Blatter told a Swiss television station that he wouldn’t step down, according to Business Insider. “Why would I step down? That would mean I recognize that I did wrongdoing,” he said. He even went as far as to say that he couldn’t be held responsible for any corruption within the FIFA organization. Now that he has in fact resigned, does this signal an admittance of guilt?
As the U.S. led investigations into the FIFA corruption scandal intensify, the heat got a little too close for Blatter. His right hand man, FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke, is accused of allegedly authorizing the transfer of $10 million in 2008 to be used for bribing votes in favor of South Africa hosting the 2010 World Cup. Now, U.S. authorities are hoping to extend their investigations to include Blatter. The New York Times reported that investigators are hoping to win cooperation from those currently indicted in order to build a case against Blatter.
The independent chairman of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee, Domenico Scala, speaking to media after Blatter’s resignation, said, “There is significant work to be done in order to regain the trust of the public and to fundamentally reform the way in which people see FIFA.
“These steps will ensure that the organization cannot be used by those seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of the game.”