The football world was rocked today when Sepp Blatter announces his resignation from the post of president of FIFA.
FIFA has been struggling with a corruption investigation that was revealed to the public when several prominent current and former members of FIFA's executive committee were arrested in Switzerland, and the scope and scale of the investigation, and the charges it alleged, were staggering.
Over $100 million in bribes. Votes bought, both for presidential elections and World Cup bids. Bribes and "gifts" handed out left and right. The more things came out, the worse things looked for FIFA. There were calls to postpone the presidential election scheduled for last Friday, but FIFA blindly carried on with it, with Blatter declaring that nothing was his fault and that FIFA itself was fine.
Blatter won that election, with his only opponent resigning thanks to a wide margin against him in the votes despite forcing a second round of voting. Now, just days later, he's announced that he will step down as the head of FIFA.
I have been reflecting deeply about my presidency and about the forty years in which my life has been inextricably bound to FIFA and the great sport of football. I cherish FIFA more than anything and I want to do only what is best for FIFA and for football. I felt compelled to stand for re-election, as I believed that this was the best thing for the organisation. That election is over but FIFA’s challenges are not. FIFA needs a profound overhaul.
While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football – the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at FIFA.
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.
Blatter declared that the while the next general session of the FIFA congress, the body that votes in such elections, is scheduled for next year, that wait "would create an unnecessary delay" to get FIFA their new president, signalling that he's not going to ride things out through the rest of his term as some were afraid of when his speech began.
The timing is actually quite interesting, beyond just the "you won reelection four days ago" angle. Yesterday, however, a document emerged that directly linked FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke -- Blatter's current right-hand man -- to $10 million in bribes that were wired through the US. Between that and word that former executive committee member Chuck Blazer's testimony was about to be released by the FBI, Blatter may have seen the end coming and chose to end things on his own terms.
Based on what was said by the FIFA rep who spoke after Blatter, we'll have to wait about four months, and maybe as many as six, to get another congressional session organized. In the meantime, seeing who steps up as a candidate and what kind of "profound overhaul" we'll see in FIFA will bear close scrutiny.