LONDON — Sepp Blatter has been re-elected as president of world soccer organization FIFA, which is at the center of investigations by the FBI and Swiss authorities into corruption. His election may lead to a boycott by European countries of the World Cup tournament in Russia in 2018.
Blatter, who defeated Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, told delegates before the vote: “I am being held accountable for the current storm — so be it, I will shoulder the responsibility. I will take it upon myself and I want to fix FIFA together with you.”
On Wednesday, Swiss authorities arrested several FIFA officials in Zurich, Switzerland, where the soccer body is holding its annual congress. The move was at the request of the U.S. federal authorities, which are seeking to prosecute 14 people connected with FIFA for alleged offenses that include racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. Nine are FIFA officials, and four are marketing executives from the U.S. and South America, who are accused of paying more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for media and marketing deals. The final individual is an intermediary who allegedly handled illegal payments. The U.S. inquiry is focused mainly on Concacaf, a body that governs soccer across North America, Central America and the Caribbean, and Conmebol, which is the South American soccer confederation.
The U.S. Department of Justice emphasized the huge importance to FIFA of revenue from media and marketing rights. For example, 70% of FIFA’s $5.7 billion in total revenues between 2011 and 2014 was attributable to the sale of TV and marketing rights to the 2014 World Cup. The TV rights for the 2014 World Cup tournament, which aired in 214 countries, were worth $2.4 billion.
In a separate investigation that got underway this week, the Swiss legal authorities are looking at the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively.
The organization that governs soccer in Europe, Uefa, may now decide to boycott the World Cup in Russia in 2018. Uefa president, Michel Platini, who had asked Blatter to withdraw from the election, has said a boycott is in the cards, and Greg Dyke, chairman of the English soccer association, has said he is in favor of such a move.