The president of Fifa, Sepp Blatter, has denied responsibility for the corruption scandal engulfing football's world governing body and has promised to clean up the organisation by pressing ahead with his bid for a fifth term.
Blatter told the Fifa congress in Zurich on Thursday afternoon that he could “not monitor everyone all of the time” and emphasised that the allegations and arrests focused on “a minority of individuals”. Blatter promised, not for the first time, to rebuild trust.
“These are unprecedented and difficult times for Fifa,” he said. “The events of yesterday have cast a long shadow over football and over this week’s congress. Actions of individuals, if proven, bring shame and humiliation on football and demand action and change from us all. We cannot allow the reputation of Fifa to be dragged through the mud any longer.”
Blatter earlier confirmed that he will seek a fifth term as the head of Fifa, rebuffing a personal plea for him to quit from Uefa president Michel Platini.
Uefa ruled out seeking a postponement of Friday’s election and will instead back Blatter’s challenger, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.
Blatter made his decision to stay after a series crisis meetings at Fifa HQ with representatives of the six regional football confederations. He rejected a face-to-face demand from Platini for his resignation.
“I asked him to resign: ‘enough is enough, Sepp’. He listened to me but he told me it is too late,” Platini told a news conference in Zurich. Platini said he was “disgusted” and “sickened” by the scandal gripping the organisation.
Following a meeting of all 54 Uefa members on Thursday, it emerged that former Manchester United chief executive David Gill has vowed to relinquish his seat as vice-president of Fifa if Blatter wins Friday’s election.
Gill, a board member of Uefa and and the English Football Association, was applauded when he said he would not take up the seat he was due to inherit from Northern Ireland’s Jim Boyce after Friday’s Fifa Congress.
FAI chief executive John Delaney said: “David Gill stood up and said he won’t take up his seat – that was the big thing. I think it was very brave and very honest of him and there was a good round of applause. People thought: ‘That’s a man of honour.’
“From his own personal perspective he doesn’t want to serve under Blatter and you have to respect that position. There wasn’t a vote taken but Michel Platini will tell you Uefa is unified. Whether all 53 transfer their votes over I don’t know – I think one or two will be lost along the way.”
Platini told the Uefa delegates the confederation needed to unite in support of Blatter’s challenger, Prince Ali.
Most of Uefa’s members will back Ali in Friday’s election, though some, including Russia and Spain, will remain staunch backers of the incumbent.
Prince Ali is understood to have told the Uefa delegates that he believed he had the support of more than 60 associations outside Europe, which would give him more than enough backing to take the contest to a second round. Ali or Blatter would need a two-thirds majority of the 209 votes to win in the first round and a simple majority thereafter.
SEPP BLATTER’S SPEECH TO FIFA CONGRESS IN FULL
“These are unprecedented and difficult times for Fifa. The events of yesterday have cast a long shadow over football and over this week’s conference.
Actions on individuals bring shame and humiliation on football and demand action and change from us all.
We cannot allow the reputation of football and Fifa to be dragged through the mud any longer – it has to stop here and now.
I know many people hold me ultimately responsible for the action and reputation for the global football community, whether it is a decision for the hosting of a World Cup or a corruption scandal.
I cannot monitor everyone all of the time – if people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it.
But it must fall to me to bear responsibility for the reputation and well-being of our organisation and to find a way forward to fix things.
I will not allow the actions of a few to destroy the hard work and the integrity of the vast majority of those who work so hard for football.
I must stress that those who are corrupt in football are in the minority, like in society, but like in society they must be caught and held responsible for their actions.
Football cannot be the exception to the rule, that is our responsibility at Fifa and we will co-operate with all authorities to make sure anyone involved with wrong-doing from top to bottom is discovered and punished.
There can be no place for corruption of any kind.
The next few months will not be easy for Fifa, I’m sure more bad news may follow, but it is necessary to begin to restore trust in our organisation.
Let this be the turning point, more needs to be done to make sure everyone in football behaves responsibly and ethically everywhere, also outside of the field of play, where there is no referee, no boundaries and no time limit.
Football, the fans, the players, the club, the world, deserves so much more and we must respond.
Tomorrow, at the congress, we have the opportunity to begin on what will be a long and difficult road to re-building trust. We have lost their trust, or at least a big part of it, and we must now earn it back.
We must earn it back through the decisions we make, through the expectations we place on each other and through the way we behave individually.
It is important that we don’t lose sight of the spirit of football. I hope this show will remind us what we are fighting for and why we must continue to fight for positive change in football, even when some among us let us down.”
Enjoy this show, enjoy it, but I ask you also to reflect on the vast majority, why we are in football, we like this game – not for greed, not for exploitation, not for power, but because of love for the game, to serve others and to achieve positive change through responsible leadership.
Solidarity and unity is asked, for the game, for the world, for peace.”