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Whittingdale urges Blatter to quit

Published 28/05/2015

John Whittingdale said Sepp Blatter should stand down
John Whittingdale said Sepp Blatter should stand down

Sepp Blatter should stand down as Fifa president and sponsors should threaten to break off their contracts with the "corrupt organisation", the Culture Secretary has signalled.

John Whittingdale told MPs the arrests of Fifa officials in Zurich were "shocking in both their scope and scale" but they were also "far from surprising".

He said the Government fully supported the Football Association's position that significant and wide-ranging reforms are urgently needed at the top of Fifa, including "a change in its leadership".

Mr Whittingdale welcomed the investigations into the allegations of bribery and corruption, adding he backed Uefa's call for a postponement of the Fifa presidential contest and Visa's threat to Fifa that it would reassess its sponsorship if changes do not occur.

He said: "It is important that other sponsors reflect on their links to Fifa and consider following Visa's lead."

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch will write to her European counterparts setting out the UK's concerns and seeking their support for change, Mr Whittingdale said.

Replying to an urgent question, he said: "The arrests that took place in Zurich yesterday, along with the statements released by the US department of justice and the Swiss attorney general, were shocking in both their scale and scope - h owever, they were also far from surprising.

"Anyone who has spent any time looking at Fifa ... will know that this is merely the latest sorry episode, which suggests that Fifa is a deeply flawed and corrupt organisation.

"These revelations have shown how important it is for sports bodies to uphold the highest standards of governance, transparency and accountability.

"That is what we ask and expect of all our own domestic sports bodies in the UK, international bodies should be no different and that is particularly true for an organisation like Fifa - an organisation that should be the guardian of the world's most popular sport, not one whose members seek to profit personally from the passion of the game's fans."

He went on: "Football is the world's game and it is our national game. It is a fundamental part of British life and culture yet these revelations have dragged the game's reputation into the mud.

"The time has clearly come for change and we will offer whatever support is necessary to the Football Association to see that change realised."

Tory Stephen Phillips, who asked the urgent question, called for the Government and FA to take steps to recover the £19 million "wasted" on England's 2018 World Cup bid, which could have gone to grassroots football.

He also called for Fifa to reopen the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which are due to be held in Russia and Qatar.

The MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham said: "You will know from your work on the select committee in the last parliament that the English FA made an unsuccessful bid for the 2018 World Cup which cost something in the region of £19 million.

"That bid of course had the backing of His Royal Highness Prince William and of David Beckham amongst others, but it received only two votes.

"What investigations do you now intend to carry out to examine whether that bid failed due to bribery and corruption on the part of Fifa officials?

"Will you discuss with the English Football Association the steps which can now be taken to recover the £19 million which was wasted and which could have gone on grassroots community football in this country?

"Can you say what steps the Government will now take to recover any money which it wasted on the failed bid?

"And do you think, as many members no doubt do, that the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups should now be reopened?"

Mr Whittingdale said he would be speaking to FA chairman Greg Dyke later today and said he was pleased the home nations associations had joined with Uefa in calling for the Fifa presidential election to be postponed.

Mr Phillips said the Government should also ensure that allegations relating to criminal behaviour in Britain are investigated by UK authorities.

He said: "What discussions have you had overnight with the Attorney General and the Home Secretary as to whether a criminal investigation should be commenced in this country and if appropriate, charges brought?

"And given the scale of the corruption revealed by the Sunday Times and by Panorama as long ago as 2010, why has no action been taken to date?

"Can you assure the House that a full criminal investigation of any unlawful behaviour in this country will now be launched?"

In a separate answer, Mr Whittingdale said he would discuss the issues with the Attorney General and make it clear to him and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) that the Government will assist any investigations.

"In terms of the SFO investigation, it is a matter for them, but I do know that they will have heard the calls today and indeed the calls that were made ... in the debate we held in the last parliament, and I understand certainly that they are looking at it.

"I have not yet had an opportunity to talk to the Attorney General but I am very happy to do so and to make clear to him and to the SFO that we will assist in any way we can."

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