Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, yesterday faced calls from senior European soccer officials to step down next year to enable the sport's international governing body to move on unencumbered by corruption claims.
At the Fifa Congress in Sao Paulo, which got under way on Tuesday, Blatter is seeking support for a fifth term in office despite having said when re-elected in 2011 that he would not be staying on beyond 2015.
Many officials at Uefa believe Blatter should stick to his earlier pledge, claiming that change is required at Fifa after various allegations of corruption, including in the bidding process which led to Qatar controversially being awarded the 2022 World Cup.
Speaking ahead of the Fifa Congress in Sao Paulo, Michael van Praag, the head of the KNVB, the Dutch soccer association and a Uefa executive committee member, said: "The image of Fifa has been tarnished by everything that has happened in recent years. People link Fifa to corruption and bribery and all kinds of old boys' networks."
He added: "There are very few people who still take Fifa seriously and, however you look at it, Blatter is responsible in the end."
Van Praag was supported by David Gill, the Uefa vice-president from England, who said it was "disappointing" that Blatter had decided to run again, adding: "I think we need to move on."
Michel Platini, the president of Uefa, has long been seen as a likely successor to Blatter at Fifa and has said he will make a decision on whether to run for soccer’s top job in 2015 after the month-long World Cup in Brazil, which starts on Thursday.
However, there are doubts over whether the former French international star will be prepared to stand against the Swiss official, who has received open support from confederations outside Europe this week, and Uefa may have to put up an alternative candidate.
There was some disappointment yesterday at Blatter’s response to new allegations of corruption surrounding the Qatar 2022 bid, with the Fifa president having claimed that the targeting of the bid had a racist element to it.
Greg Dyke, the chairman of England’s Football Association, said he had told Blatter at a meeting that the remarks were "totally unacceptable."
Dyke said: "The allegations being made are nothing to do with racism. They are allegations about corruption."
The UK’s Sunday Times has reported that Mohamed Bin Hammam, the Qatari former Fifa executive committee member, made payments of over $5 million to help his country win the right to host the World Cup.
Bin Hammam has so far declined to comment on the claims while Qatar 2022 has distanced itself from the already-banned official and denied any wrongdoing in its successful campaign.
Michael Garcia, the former US attorney who is head of the investigatory chamber of the Fifa ethics committee, has already been conducting a probe into allegations of corruption in the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively in December 2010.
He had said that the investigation would be completed this week, with a report to be submitted to the adjudicatory chamber in approximately six weeks’ time, although it is not known to what extent the allegations raised by the Sunday Times have been explored.
Qatar was a controversial choice as host of the World Cup because of its small size, lack of soccer heritage and summer temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius, which have already prompted a continuing Fifa study to assess whether the tournament should be moved from its traditional months of June and July to the northern hemisphere winter.
Despite the contentious issues, Blatter said that Fifa was "in a festive mood" as he opened the Congress yesterday evening. The meeting will be attended by representatives of up to 209 member associations.