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Blatter defiant amid Fifa scandal

Published 28/05/2015

Jeffrey Webb was one of seven people arrested in Switzerland
Jeffrey Webb was one of seven people arrested in Switzerland

Fifa president Sepp Blatter showed no signs of bowing to international pressure to resign as he appeared for the first time since senior football officials were arrested over "rampant" corruption charges.

Following mounting calls for him to step aside following the scandal, he insisted he "cannot monitor everyone all of the time".

Speaking on stage at the opening ceremony of Fifa's annual congress meeting in Zurich, he said: "I know many people hold me ultimately responsible for the action and reputation for the global football community, whether it is a decision for the hosting of a World Cup or a corruption scandal.

"I cannot monitor everyone all of the time - if people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it."

"But it must fall to me to bear responsibility for the reputation and well-being of our organisation and to find a way forward to fix things.

"I will not allow the actions of a few to destroy the hard work and the integrity of the vast majority of those who work so hard for football.

"I must stress that those who are corrupt in football are in the minority, like in society, but like in society they must be caught and held responsible for their actions."

His voice shook as he described the events of the last two days as an "unprecedented and difficult time for Fifa" and insisted corruption would be rooted out from "top to bottom".

"There can be no place for corruption of any kind. The next few months will not be easy for Fifa, I'm sure more bad news may follow, but it is necessary to begin to restore trust in our organisaiton.

"Let this be the turning point, more needs to be done to make sure everyone in football behaves responsibly and ethically and everywhere, also outside of the field of play, where there is no referee, no boundaries and no time limit."

His public appearance came after the head of Uefa said he personally pleaded with Mr Blatter today to give up his position ahead of the leadership elections tomorrow.

Speaking at a press conference, Michel Platini also suggested he is open to the possibility of a World Cup boycott if the election rules in favour of Mr Blatter, who is seeking a fifth term.

"I asked him for a face-to-face meeting, and I said, 'Look Sepp, we started at Fifa in 1998, and for the future of Fifa, I am here to ask you to leave, to resign'," he said.

"I speak like a friend with him. He said it was too late."

Asked about a potential snub of Fifa competitions, Mr Platini said: "Uefa associations will meet in Berlin next week. We will be open to all options."

Pressed further on the prospect of a World Cup boycott, Mr Platini added: "There may be proposals. I honestly don't wish that."

Prime Minister David Cameron, the Culture Secretary John Whittingdale and the head of the Football Association Greg Dyke have joined calls for Mr Blatter to step down, while sponsors have demanded urgent action to restore Fifa's tattered reputation.

While the FA vice-chairman and Manchester United director David Gill warned he will refuse to take up Britain's Fifa vice-presidency if Mr Blatter wins tomorrow.

He said it would be "futile" to serve under Mr Blatter if he did not realise the "seismic" events of this week were a resignation issue.

Yesterday Swiss police carried out a dawn raid on a five-star hotel used by Fifa executives and arrested seven officials including Jeffrey Webb, a Fifa vice-president from the Cayman Islands who holds a British passport and fellow vice-president, Eugenio Figueredo from Uruguay.

The US Department of Justice charged 18 people over alleged bribes totalling more than 150 million US dollars (£98 million) paid for television rights, sponsorship deals and World Cup votes, with the payments allegedly transfered using American wire and banking facilities.

In a separate development, the Swiss attorney general also opened criminal proceedings over the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, seized documents and electronic data from Fifa's headquarters, and will question 10 current Fifa executive committee members who voted on that tournament.

Mr Cameron believes there is "a very, very strong case" for a change of leadership at the top of Fifa, the PM's official spokesman told reporters.

Mr Dyke insisted there is "no way of rebuilding trust in Fifa while Sepp Blatter is still there", while Mr Whittingdale said the arrests were the "latest sorry episode" for Fifa.

But support for the embattled Swiss bureaucrat came from Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has claimed the United States is meddling in Fifa's affairs in an attempt to take the 2018 World Cup away from his country.

Speaking about the US, he said: "This is yet another obvious attempt to spread their jurisdiction to other states. I have no doubt that this is obviously an attempt to prevent Mr Blatter's re-election to the post of Fifa president, which is a grave violation of the principles that international organisations function on."

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