Sepp Blatter announced his resignation as FIFA president on Tuesday, amid an ever-widening corruption scandal and less than a week after he was elected to a fifth term in office.
“FIFA needs a profound overhaul,” Blatter said at a news conference in Zurich, site of last week’s 65th FIFA Congress. “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. Therefore, I have decided to lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective Congress…a new president will be elected.
“It is my deep care for FIFA and its interests, which I hold very dear, that has led me to take this decision,” he continued. “What counts most for me is the institution of FIFA and football around the world.”
The shocking announcement comes one day after news broke that the U.S. Department of Justice was close to linking Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s secretary general, to its ongoing bribery and corruption scandal, drawing the money trail ever closer to Blatter himself. Last week, nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were indicted on charges that included racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. Two days later, Blatter was re-elected, and afterward, he was defiant, chalking the indictments up to bitter officials in the U.S. and the U.K., who had lost out on bids to host the World Cup in 2022 and 2018, respectively.
“No one is going to tell me that it was a simple coincidence, this American attack two days before the elections…it doesn’t smell right,” Blatter said. “I forgive but I don’t forget.”
On Tuesday, Blatter struck a different tone, calling for widespread reforms to soccer’s global governing body, including term limits for its president, a reduction in size of FIFA’s executive committee and internal “integrity checks.”
Blatter also said he will remain in power as FIFA president until a successor is elected. The next scheduled balloting won’t occur until FIFA’s congress meets again in May, though Domenico Scala, the chairman of FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee – and the man Blatter said would be in charge of finding the organizations next president – told reporters that an election would be held sometime between December 2015 and March 2016.