Pressure mounts on Blatter as FIFA scandal widens

Pressure mounted on FIFA President Sepp Blatter on Thursday as the corruption scandal engulfing world footballand’s governing body deepened, with warnings from big sponsors and growing criticism from senior Western politicians.
Despite FIFA statements that it was business as usual following the arrest of seven senior figures on US corruption charges, Blatter kept out of sight on Thursday when he failed to show up at a medical conference.
The embattled 79-year-old Swiss national, who rarely misses a FIFA-related event and usually stops to speak to the media, was also conspicuous by his absence on Wednesday when he failed to attend a meeting of African football delegates, assembled in Zurich ahead of Fridayand’s FIFA Congress.
FIFAand’s chief medical officer, Michel Dand’Hooghe of Belgium, told the medical officers: and”President Blatter apologizes for not being able to come today because of the turbulences you have heard about.and”
Those and”turbulencesand” included a dawn raid by plainclothes police at one of Zurichand’s most luxurious hotels on Wednesday leaving seven of the most powerful figures in global football in custody overnight and facing extradition to the United States on corruption charges.
The Swiss authorities also announced a criminal investigation into the awarding of the next two World Cups being hosted in Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.
US authorities said nine football officials and five sports media and promotions executives faced corruption charges involving more than $150 million in bribes.
Those actions have sparked the gravest crisis in FIFAand’s 111-year history with confederations now seemingly in open warfare with one another, just a day before Blatter is expected to be re-elected as FIFA president for a fifth term on Friday.
Blatter, who has denied and survived allegations of his involvement in corruption, said in a statement on Wednesday: and”Let me be clear: such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game.and”
h2Splits in world gameh2 As splits opened in the world game, UEFA, the European football confederation, called for the FIFA Congress, and the election of a new president, to be postponed amid suggestions it might boycott the event, but the AFC, the Asian confederation, backed Blatter and said the election should go ahead.
Swiss prosecutors have opened their own criminal inquiry into allegations of mismanagement and money laundering related to the awarding of rights to host that tournament and the 2022 event in Qatar.
Blatter did, however, receive endorsement from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who accused the United States of meddling outside its jurisdiction by arresting FIFA officials.
and”This is yet another blatant attempt to extend its jurisdiction to other states,and” Putin said, adding the arrests were a and”clear attemptand” to prevent Blatterand’s re-election and he had Russiaand’s backing.
The crisis has also shown up deep divisions in the French football federation.
Michel Platini, the French president of UEFA and a firm opponent of Blatter, is backing Blatterand’s presidential opponent Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan if Fridayand’s election goes ahead. However, the president of the French Football Association, Noel Le Graet, was backing Blatter as and”he did not know Prince Ali.and”
Meanwhile FIFAand’s blue-chip sponsors, many of whom have solidly backed FIFA despite nearly 20 years of bribery and corruption allegations, appeared to be growing unexpectedly concerned at events unfolding in Zurich.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman