British football officials lined themselves up in opposition to Fifa president Sepp Blatter in a day of off-field drama that will be difficult to match at the forthcoming World Cup.
Football’s top powerbroker, 78, originally said he would not seek re-election next year but has since reneged on that commitment, despite his organisation’s reputation being battered by continued corruption scandals.
Blatter secured support from the world governing body’s five other confederations in Sao Paulo – winning favour for controversially claiming allegations about Qatar’s successful bid for the 2022 World Cup were ‘racially motivated’.
But European administrators ruthlessly took aim.
“The allegations being made are nothing to do with racism; they are allegations about corruption,” said Football Association chairman Greg Dyke.
“These allegations need to be properly investigated and properly answered. Mr Blatter, many of us are deeply troubled by your reaction to these allegations.
“It’s time for Fifa to stop attacking the messenger and consider and understand the message.”
England’s Uefa vice-president David Gill, a former Manchester United chief executive, also called for Blatter not to stand again – fighting talk in the diplomatic world of sports politics, where bloodletting usually happens behind the scenes.
“The statement made by Mr Blatter was totally incorrect,” he said.
“This was about the issue being raised quite rightly in the British media which should be addressed by the world governing body and to try and portray it as racist or a discriminatory attack is totally unacceptable.”
Blatter was given a tough grilling by European football’s top officials – though it’s unlikely to prevent rules being rubber-stamped to allow him to seek a fifth term at this week’s Fifa congress.
His powerbase in world football has always been considered Africa and Asia – following a bitter presidential election with former Uefa president Lennart Johansson in 1998.
“Fifa’s image has deteriorated because of everything that’s happened in recent years,” said Dutch FA president Michael van Praag.
“Few people still take Fifa seriously and, however you look at it, Blatter is mainly responsible.
“People link Fifa to corruption and bribery and all kinds of old boy’s networks. You are not making things easy for yourself and I do not think you are the man for the job any longer.”
Image courtesy of UN Geneva, with thanks.