FIFA President Sepp Blatter has announced his intention to step down as head of the world’s governing body of football, amid a corruption scandal that involves several top FIFA officials.
In a press conference held in FIFA’s headquarters in the Swiss city of Zurich on Tuesday, Blatter announced his intention to quit just days after he won the body’s presidential election.
“I felt compelled to stand for re-election, as I believed that this was the best thing for the organization. That election is over but FIFA’s challenges are not. FIFA needs a profound overhaul,” he said.
He added that although he has a mandate from the membership of FIFA, he felt he did not have “a mandate from the entire world of football.”
“Therefore, I have decided to lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective congress. I will continue to exercise my functions as FIFA president until that election,” he added.
The next ordinary FIFA Congress is set to be held on May 13 2016 in Mexico City, he stated, adding that he will “urge the Executive Committee to organize an Extraordinary Congress for the election of my successor at the earliest opportunity.”
“Since I shall not be a candidate, and am therefore now free from the constraints that elections inevitably impose, I shall be able to focus on driving far-reaching, fundamental reforms that transcend our previous efforts. For years, we have worked hard to put in place administrative reforms, but it is plain to me that while these must continue, they are not enough.”
“The Executive Committee includes representatives of confederations over whom we have no control, but for whose actions FIFA is held responsible. We need deep-rooted structural change,” he went on to say.
The Executive Committee’s size should be reduced and its members should be elected via the FIFA Congress, he said, adding that security checks on the members of the Executive Committee have to be organized centrally through FIFA and not by the confederations.
“I have fought for these changes before and, as everyone knows, my efforts have been blocked,” he said. “This time, I will succeed.”
Following Blatter’s announcement, Jordanian Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, who had withdrawn from FIFA’s presidential race against Blatter last Friday, said that he will run in the new election for president.
Chairman of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee, Domenico Scala, said the new congress may be held between December 2015 and March 2016.
Some senior political figures in Western countries, especially those close to the US, had been calling on Blatter to step down. They have also asked FIFA to cancel its decision to pick Russia for the hosting of the 2018 World Cup.
Blatter’s surprise announcement comes amid a scandal involving some senior FIFA officials. The corruption case made headlines Wednesday, when Swiss authorities launched a raid on a gathering of senior FIFA members in Zurich, arresting seven of them.
The Swiss government said the raid was part of a probe led by the United States into corruption allegations against the FIFA officials.
A separate probe has been launched in Switzerland into the granting of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup events respectively to Russia and Qatar.
In an interview after his reelection, Blatter lashed out at the US for pursuing ulterior motives in the ongoing judicial probe into FIFA’s corruption case.
“There are signs which cannot be mistaken: the Americans were candidates for the 2022 World Cup and they lost,” Blatter said back then, adding, “I am not certain, but it doesn’t smell good.”
Seventy nine-year-old Blatter has been in FIFA for around 40 years and has served as its president for the last 17 years.