Sepp Blatter to Resign as President of World Soccer Organization FIFA

Soccer chief says FIFA 'needs a profound overhaul' as FBI and Swiss investigations into corruption continue

Sepp Blatter Resign President of World
Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images

Sepp Blatter is to resign as president of world soccer organization FIFA, which is the focus of a FBI investigation.

Blatter will continue to serve as chief until the holding of an extraordinary congress, which he has urged the body’s executive committee to organize “at the earliest opportunity.” In the meantime, Blatter said he would be able to “focus on driving far-reaching, fundamental reforms that transcend our previous efforts.”

Seven FIFA officials were arrested at the organization’s annual congress in Switzerland last week at the request the U.S. government as federal authorities pursued those they allege to be guilty of corruption. But despite those arrests, and others that were made elsewhere, Blatter was re-elected as FIFA boss two days later. On Tuesday, he decided to quit.

“FIFA needs a profound overhaul,” Blatter said in a statement. “While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football — the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at FIFA.”

In all 14 people were indicted as part of the FBI action. Charges included racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.

Meanwhile, Swiss authorities launched their own investigation into FIFA, which focused on how the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded to Russian and Qatar, respectively. The proceedings are targeted at criminal mismanagement and money laundering, according to the Swiss attorney general.

In his statement on Tuesday, Blatter set out how he would like to reform FIFA. First, he proposed a reduction in the size of the executive committee, and, second, said that its members should be elected by the FIFA congress. At present the committee includes representatives of regional confederations “over whom we have no control, but for whose actions FIFA is held responsible,” he said. The focus of the FBI action has been on two of these regional confederations: Concacaf, which governs soccer across North America, Central America and the Caribbean, and Conmebol, which is the South American confederation. Third, he called for “integrity checks” on executive committee members to be carried out by FIFA and not by the confederations. Fourth, Blatter argued for limits on the terms for the FIFA president and the members of the executive committee.

Blatter has asked Domenico Scala, who is chairman of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee, to oversee the implementation of the reforms, and to supervise the election of the new president.

At the heart of the allegations of corruption at FIFA are the sale of media and marketing rights, which generate the lion’s share of its revenues. For example, 70% of FIFA’s $5.7 billion in total revenues between 2011 and 2014 was attributable to the sale of media and marketing rights to the 2014 World Cup. The TV rights alone for the 2014 World Cup tournament, which aired in 214 countries, were worth $2.4 billion. The FBI investigation now ongoing may now uncover some uncomfortable truths, not just for FIFA but for some of those involved in the sale of those media and marketing rights.