Belfast Telegraph

Sepp Blatter will clean up Fifa image, says Jim Boyce

By Graham Luney

Jim Boyce and the Irish FA last night claimed that Fifa was getting its house in order.

The former Cliftonville chairman was bursting with pride after becoming vice-president of Fifa, world football's governing body.

It's a massive honour for the former president of the Irish FA as he becomes one of eight vice-presidents in Fifa's executive committee, taking the place of Englishman Geoff Thompson.

Boyce took his seat following the unopposed re-election of Fifa president Sepp Blatter who will now serve for a fourth term as president.

The English and Scottish Football Associations wanted yesterday's election postponed while some of Fifa's top officials were being investigated over allegations that they accepted bribes.

However, the Irish FA and their Welsh counterparts refused to back the motion and it was only supported by 17 of the member associations. After a secret ballot, Blatter was voted in for another four years by 186 associations.

Before the vote the 75-year-old said that Fifa was ready to embrace change - firstly, that World Cup host countries will be chosen by a vote of all the 208 member associations.

Until now, Fifa's 24-man executive committee has had that power.

Now the Fifa Congress will decide where World Cups are staged after a shortlist drawn up by the committee.

Blatter also announced an extraordinary congress will be held to examine proposals for other reforms, and that an independent chairman of the ethics committee - the watchdog group set up in 2006 to deal with claims of malpractice in Fifa - will be elected by the Congress.

Boyce has now risen from ballboy duties at Solitude as a seven-year-old to football's top table and the 67-year-old has had to walk into the firing line this week, with the widening corruption scandal within Fifa dominating headlines.

Blatter was left as the only candidate for the presidency following Mohamed Bin Hammam's withdrawal on Sunday, hours before he was provisionally banned on bribery charges.

Bin Hammam, along with Concacaf president Jack Warner, was provisionally suspended by Fifa's ethics committee over allegations that financial incentives were offered to Caribbean Football Union (CFU) members. Both have denied any wrongdoing.

Fifa have vowed to clean up the game and Boyce is determined to restore the football body's battered reputation.

"This is a big honour for me to be elected vice-president and I said in my speech how proud I was to come from Northern Ireland," said Boyce.

"I'm following in the footsteps of Harry Cavan and David Will and I hope to contribute to improve the game at all levels all over the world, including Northern Ireland.

"Fifa is not corrupt. There are allegations against some individuals but Sepp Blatter was elected president again with an overwhelming vote of confidence and the new measures he announced to clean up the game have been welcomed.

"These measures satisfied a lot of people. Congress will now decide where the World Cup is held and hopefully there will no more bribery accusations in the future.

"The independent committee set up to look at malpractice is also a positive development and there will be a zero policy attitude to anyone found guilty of inappropriate behaviour.

"But the point has to made that Fifa contribute £754million into the development of countries and are involved in a lot of charity work including helping underprivileged children.

"If I don't agree with something I will make my voice heard but I want to lend my support to anything that will enhance the game across the world and Northern Ireland as well."

Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson (pictured) welcomed the new measures aimed at securing a more transparent form of governance within Fifa.

"With regard to the new World Cup voting system, I believe this to be a more open and more democratic approach," he said.

"This is a good thing for football and with regard to Fifa, we look forward to having an even closer working relationship with them now that Jim (Boyce) has been appointed on the executive committee.

"We are committed to good governance within the IFA and Fifa."

A relieved Blatter said: "I'm happy today we were once again able to bring solidarity and unity into Fifa."

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