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Blatter's resignation welcomed

Published 02/06/2015

Sepp Blatter had been under huge pressure to step down as Fifa president
Sepp Blatter had been under huge pressure to step down as Fifa president

The "belated" resignation of Sepp Blatter as Fifa's president is "only the beginning of the process of change we need to see", Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has said.

The sudden departure of the head of world football's governing body just days after being re-elected to the role - despite the arrests of Fifa officials on suspicion of decades of bribe-taking - was warmly welcomed by UK politicians.

Prime Minister David Cameron was among those who had publicly called for him to go amid widespread demands from critics for the controversial decisions to award World Cups to Russia and Qatar to be reopened.

Mr Whittingdale said: "Governments, national associations and international confederations, along with players and fans, have all called for Sepp Blatter to resign in recent days.

"We welcome his belated announcement today but this is only the beginning of the process of change we need to see from Fifa. I sincerely hope this is the first step to a new Fifa that can command the confidence and respect of the football world once again."

Blatter, 79, who has held the role for 17 years, has called an extraordinary congress "as soon as possible", saying "a new president will be elected to follow me".

Mr Blatter's announcement comes after Fifa admitted it paid 10 million US dollars destined for the South Africa World Cup to an account controlled by disgraced former vice-president Jack Warner. The payment followed a letter from the South African FA to Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke.

Mr Whittingdale said last week that the Government and the Football Association (FA) have not ruled out any options in the battle to end the "culture of kickbacks and corruption that risk ruining international football for a generation".

Amid calls for a boycott of the World Cup, he assured MPs that the Government would do anything in its power to bring about change in world football's governing body.

Two FA directors have resigned Fifa posts and FA chairman Greg Dyke said the resignation was " great news for football".

"I think it is long overdue but it is good news for world football," he said.

"It now means that we can get someone in to run Fifa, we can get in there and find out where all the money has gone over all these years and sort it out for the future."

Shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant said the hugely-controversial decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar should be reopened.

"This is great news for football. I'm glad Sepp Blatter has listened to the overwhelming calls and taken the inevitable decision to go," he said,

"His departure is necessary but not sufficient. Fifa needs complete reform, and to rerun the 2022 World Cup bid.

"The election of a new president needs to happen as soon as possible to give Fifa a chance to clean up its game and regain its reputation."

Liberal Democrat sports spokeswoman Baroness Doocey said of Mr Blatter: "For far too long he has presided over a corrupt and shambolic organisation that has let down millions of football fans throughout the world.

"Fifa must now elect a president who will be absolutely ruthless in tackling endemic corruption. The game of football deserves nothing less."

Conservative MP Damian Collins, who has long campaigned for reform of world football's governing body, said Mr Blatter must not be allowed to " escape the investigation of past wrongdoing" by departing now.

"There must now be full and open reform," he said.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage could not resist the opportunity to make a joke at the expense of the European Union.

"Blatter has gone, thank goodness he's Swiss or he'd be a shoo-in for the European Commission," he said.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said "arrogant" Mr Blatter should quit immediately and not preside over his own replacement.

The Tory MP - who was part of England's unsuccessful bid to host the 2018 World Cup - joined calls for that process to be reopened if the decision to hand it to Russia was shown to have been corrupted.

"Blatter has seen the writing on the wall - that's good news - and yet he feels it is necessary to stay on long enough to oversee a transition," he said.

"It's typical Blatter - arrogant. He needs to go now, not tomorrow, not next month, not next year - now.

"It's essential prosecutors in the US and Switzerland are able to work unhindered, and that Fifa moves quickly to repair it's tarnished image.

"England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup deserved serious consideration, if it's proven corruption prevented that process from being a fair one, then the vote for 2018 and 2022 should be re-run.

"London as the centrepiece of that bid, stands ready to help."

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