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Embattled Blatter wins fifth term

Published 29/05/2015

Sepp Blatter said despite the growing scandal that he
Sepp Blatter said despite the growing scandal that he "cannot monitor everyone all of the time"

Under-fire Fifa president Sepp Blatter has been re-elected despite international pressure for him to step down after the federation was rocked by a £100 million corruption scandal.

He was re-elected after Prince Ali bin al-Hussein pulled out of the running in the second round of voting.

Prime Minister David Cameron joined calls for Mr Blatter to resign after 18 people were arrested as US and Swiss authorities launched investigations into kickbacks, bribes and "rampant corruption" dating back decades.

But the Swiss bureaucrat, 79, was determined to hang on to his position and he is set to stay at the helm of the world football governing body for another four years.

Mr Blatter thanked Prince Ali for standing down as a contender despite his "very good result."

He told the hall: "Thank you that you accepted me, that for the next four years I will be in command of this boat called Fifa, and we will bring it back, off shore, and back to the beach, we will bring it back, where finally football can be played, beach soccer can be played everywhere."

He said there were organisational problems to solve at Fifa and changes to make in some competitions, but they would not touch the World Cup.

"I take the responsibility to bring back Fifa, we can do it, and I'm convinced we can do it."

He received a standing ovation at the end of a speech which he finished with: "Let's go Fifa! Let's go Fifa!"

Meanwhile, asked why he had withdrawn from the presidential race, Prince Ali said there were 73 national associations who had been "really brave" and he said: "I did it for them. I don't want them to be in any more trouble."

He said he hoped Fifa will realise that "football is for the world" and said he looks forward to a "bright future" for Fifa.

Mr Blatter led after the first round of voting by 133 votes to 73 but failed to get a two thirds majority to win outright.

There were 206 valid votes in the contest at the Fifa Congress in Zurich, which wa s being closely watched by the world.

Footballing leaders from around the globe were voting on whether to re-elect the beleaguered incumbent after the federation was rocked by a £100 million corruption scandal.

Mr Blatter faced mounting calls to step down after 18 people were arrested as the US and Swiss authorities both launched police probes into allegations of kickbacks, bribes and ''rampant'' corruption.

Prime Minister David Cameron joined the growing chorus calling for the Swiss bureaucrat to resign, telling reporters that ''frankly what we have seen is the ugly side of the beautiful game and he should go''.

But Mr Blatter was determined to hang on to his job, telling delegates to vote for him and let him ''shoulder'' the responsibility of fixing the scandal that has engulfed the organisation.

He said: ''We don't need revolutions, but we always need evolutions. Yesterday and the day before and even today I am being held accountable for the current storm.

''So be it, I will shoulder that responsibility, I will take it. I'll accept this responsibility and I want to fix Fifa together with you.

''I want to do it now and tomorrow and the day after and the weeks and months to come, so that at the end of my term of office I'll be able to hand over a solid Fifa, a Fifa that will have emerged from the storm.

''A strong Fifa, a Fifa that's integrated and a part of our society, a Fifa that will have enough safeguards to not need the political interventions anywhere they will come from.''

Shortly before voting began Prince Ali told delegates: ''The eyes of the world are upon us and not for the first time and this time everything is at stake.''

He added: ''Listen to your conscience and listen to your hearts. For the soul of our game and for a new dawn for Fifa.''

It is thought that Mr Batter's re-election for a fifth consecutive term could plunge world football into further crisis.

Before the result, Michel Platini, the head of European football's governing body, warned the organisation could boycott Fifa competitions if Mr Blatter was to stay.

While ex-Manchester United chief executive David Gill said he would reject his position on the Fifa executive committee if Mr Blatter did not go.

The US authorities have charged 18 people in connection with allegations that bribes totalling more than 150 million US dollars (£98 million) were paid for television rights, sponsorship deals and World Cup votes going back decades.

A second and separate investigation is being carried out by Swiss authorities over the alleged criminal mismanagement of the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

In Britain the Serious Fraud Office announced it is assessing ''material in its possession'' relating to allegations of corruption at the heart of world football's governing body.

British banks Barclays, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank were used to transfer cash as part of the conspiracy, US prosecutors allege.

But in a speech to delegates in Zurich, Mr Blatter took a swipe at the investigation and appeared to suggest the arrests and accompanying furore has only erupted because the World Cups were awarded to Russia and Qatar rather than their rivals.

His comment appeared to be a reference to the United States and England losing out in the bidding process.

He said: ''They call into question 2018 and 2022.

''On December 2, 2010, here in Zurich, when we decided on the two World Cups in one session, if two other countries had emerged from the envelope, I think we would not have these problems today.

''But we can't go back in time, we are not prophets, we can't say what would have happened.''

Most of the media investigations into Fifa have come from Britain, while it is the US justice authorities that sparked the current investigation.

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke says he would be "very surprised" if Mr Blatter was still Fifa president in two years.

Earlier today Mr Dyke backed the idea of a co-ordinated European boycott of the World Cup - and speaking after the vote in Zurich, he said: "This is not over by any means.

"To quote the (US) attorney general this is the beginning of the process, not the end.

"The idea Blatter could reform FIFA is suspect. I'd be very surprised if he was still in this job in two years time."

Former Tottenham midfielder David Ginola has asked: "Is it a joke?"

He told ITV News: "It looks to me we are watching a very bad reality TV show."

Ginola added: "People have been arrested, there is an FBI investigation towards Fifa. I mean I don't know what we're talking about. I saw people standing in the audience applauding! Is it a joke?

"We are talking about Fifa, we are talking about the beautiful game, we are talking about trust and confidence. We are in front of people who are using those words but they took away everything.

"There is nothing about trust anymore towards Fifa from the football world and from the fans. People were expecting Mr Blatter to withdraw from the election but he is not. He is there for another four years and it would be very complicated to get him out."

Asked what he thinks Mr Blatter's victory means for world football, Ginola told ITV News: "Nothing will change until we know the end of the final stage of the investigation.

"We need to wait and see. People have been arrested. There is an investigation on some of the people in Fifa and we need to wait for that.

"People are going to talk about how Fifa is ruled these days and for the last 20 years and we need to wait for that.

"Mr Blatter is there for another four years. The word of football is expecting some changes and hopefully we're going to get those changes."

John Delaney, chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland, believes that despite Mr Blatter's victory the pressure of the latest crisis will mean he does not see out his four-year term.

He told Press Association Sport: "I still think this is the beginning of the end of Sepp Blatter. I don't see him seeing his four years out - the momentum is too great.

"We have to see how best we can use the European muscle. We also need to go on a charm offensive with Africa and Asia."

Former Portugal international Luis Figo withdrew his candidacy last week - and he was scathing in his criticism of Mr Blatter again after the vote.

"This vote has only served to endorse the election of a man who can't remain in charge of world football.

"Mr Blatter...being re-elected - that shows exactly how the organisation is sick.

"Today was another dark day in Zurich. Fifa has lost, but above everything, football has lost and everyone who truly cares about it has lost too.

"Mr Blatter had a very cynical reaction when he said that he couldn't control everyone. It offends everyone's intelligence.

"If he was minimally concerned about football, he would have given up on re-election. If he has a modicum of decency, he will resign in the next few days," he said.

Uefa president Michel Platini reiterated his desire for change within Fifa, while congratulating 39-year-old Prince Ali for his "admirable campaign".

The Frenchman said: "I am proud that Uefa has defended and supported a movement for change at Fifa, change which in my opinion is crucial if this organisation is to regain its credibility.

"I congratulate my friend Prince Ali for his admirable campaign and I take the opportunity to thank all the national associations who supported him."

Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, John Whittingdale, said: "It's incredibly disappointing that when presented with overwhelming demands for change, many Fifa members still opted for the status quo - for a president who's overseen an organisation tainted with accusations of corruption.

"A system designed to support the incumbent has returned a predictable result, but with its authority severely diminished.

"The investigations taking place make it clear that Fifa needs to change, and change now. I hope the voices calling for this change within the football community can be successful and do not continue to find their efforts blocked and frustrated by vested interests.

"The Government will do everything in its power to help, and lend additional weight to their arguments."

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