Blatter: ‘Damage’ to FIFA, but no crisis

FIFA president Sepp Blatter says the world governing body’s image has been damaged after recent corruption and bribery allegations.Blatter – the lone candidate for the presidency election on Wednesday – was forced to defend FIFA after a tumultuous few days saw both Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam and FIFA vice-president Jack Warner suspended amid accusations of bribery and corruption.

Bin Hammam was due to challenge Blatter for the FIFA presidency and is set to appeal his suspension.

In an eventful press conference on Monday, Swiss national Blatter said FIFA had suffered as a result of the recent revelations.

“I regret what has happened in the last few days and weeks. (There has been) great damage to the image of FIFA, but especially a lot of disappointment for football fans. I’m speaking to the football fans,” he told reporters in Zurich on Monday.

“What we have to do is in the congress, to get a unity, in solidarity and to look forward for the next four years.”

“It will not be an easy task, but together we can do it. I’m sure, and it has been confirmed in the four meetings and in the two I will have tomorrow, (it) will be the same. We go together for the good of game, for the fans of football and for the perception of our game in society.”

When asked if the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar had been ‘clean’, Blatter said FIFA had no problem with the way the process had been conducted.

“I believe that the decision which we took for the 2022 World Cup was done exactly in the same pattern and in the same environment that we have made the decision on the 2018 (tournament, which was awarded to Russia) and there was no problem for FIFA’s ExCo to act in this direction,” he said.

“Again, I say – there is no issue for the 2022 World Cup.”

While Blatter said the organisation was ‘in a very bad situation’, he denied FIFA was in crisis and said only the congress of football’s governing body could help rectify the matters.

Blatter refused to answer questions regarding FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke and his email to Warner, which had been released earlier on Monday.

Valcke had written that Qatar had ‘bought’ the hosting rights to the 2022 World Cup.

He clarified the comment in a statement released shortly before Blatter’s press conference: “I’d like to clarify that I may use in an email – a ‘lighter’ way of expression by nature – a much less formal tone than in any form of correspondence.”

“Having said that, when I refer to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in that email, what I wanted to say is that the winning bid used their financial strength to lobby for support. They were a candidate with a very important budget and have used it to heavily promote their bid all around the world in a very efficient manner.”