Sepp Blatter quits as head of Fifa

Fifa president Sepp Blatter arrives for the news conference where he announced his resignation

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Sepp Blatter has resigned as the president of Fifa, just four days after he won re-election for a fifth four-year term against the backdrop of a massive corruption scandal.

Mr Blatter, who presided over world football’s governing body for 17 years, said it would hold an extraordinary congress to elect his successor.

Mr Blatter’s resignation as the most powerful figure in football comes less than a week after US investigators alleged “rampant” corruption at the highest level of Fifa and indicted nine of the organisation’s officials, while Swiss prosecutors announced a criminal probe into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.

Mr Blatter, a Swiss national, said he did not feel he had “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”.

The election was over but “Fifa’s challenges are not,” he said in a statement. “Fifa needs a profound overhaul.”

Domenico Scala, the head of Fifa’s audit and compliance committee, said the resignation would “fundamentally change the way people see Fifa”, and outlined a number of steps that Fifa would take to reform itself.

“The decision he made was difficult and courageous. In the current circumstances this was the best way to ensure an orderly transition,” said Mr Scala. “We have worked hard to put in place governance reforms, but this has not been enough.”

Mr Blatter will continue in his post until the extraordinary congress, which is likely to come between December and March 2016. Until then, he said he would work to install new reforms to make Fifa honest and transparent.

In particular both he and Mr Scala said that Fifa would now carry out “integrity checks” on all members of its highest-ranking body, the executive committee. In recent years, several executive committee members have been implicated in a range of corruption inquiries.

Michel Platini, president of European football’s governing body Uefa, backed Mr Blatter’s move.

Mr Platini, who had asked Mr Blatter to resign before his re-election, said: “It was a difficult decision, a brave decision, and the right decision.”

Greg Dyke, the chairman of the English Football Association told the BBC: “Clearly there is a smoking gun somewhere. This is nothing to do with Blatter being honourable. We need someone with an impeccable character but can run an organisation, and can sort out an organisation where corruption has been rife for years.”

Among Fifa’s most important sponsors, Coca-Cola — which had last week urged the organisation to “take concrete actions” urgently — said that Mr Blatter’s decision was “a positive step for the good of sport, football and its fans”.

“We believe this decision will help Fifa transform itself rapidly into a much-needed 21st century structure and institution,” Coca-Cola said in a statement.

Visa, another top sponsor, said on Tuesday: “Transparency, integrity and fair play must be the hallmarks of the new administration and Visa stands ready to work with Fifa towards these principles.”

Sunil Gulati, the head of US soccer, commended Mr Blatter for stepping down, saying the move offered “an exceptional and immediate opportunity for positive change within Fifa”.

Mr Blatter was re-elected after his only rival, Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, withdrew after gaining 73 votes to Blatter’s 133 in the first round of voting.

His resignation came at the end of another bruising day for Fifa, after one of his most senior lieutenants, Jérôme Valcke, was alleged to have had personal knowledge of a $10m payment at the heart of a US corruption probe.

Mr Valcke was the recipient of a letter from the South African football association on March 4, 2008, asking him to withhold $10m from the funding of the World Cup “operational budget” and for the money to be “advanced” to a fund controlled by the then “President of Concacaf”, Jack Warner.

The letter, which was shown on South African television, was confirmed by its South African signatory, Molefi Oliphant. “The copy is official,” he said. “That is the copy, you have it, so you can draw any opinion you want to. That is the correct letter,” he said.

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