By Simon Ward
Fifa president Sepp Blatter is set to run for a fifth term in office despite calls from European soccer officials for him not to stand in next year’s election, which the Swiss official described as "the most disrespectful thing" he had experienced in his life.
The 78-year-old had said when re-elected in 2011 that he would not be staying on beyond 2015 but has recently indicated that he is prepared to stay on for another four-year term, and reiterated this at the Fifa Congress in Sao Paulo yesterday, telling delegates of the 209 member associations: "My mission is not finished."
He added: "Congress, you will decide who will take this great institution forward, but I can tell you I am ready to accompany you in the future."
Blatter’s cause would appear to have been strengthened by the rejection by members of proposed term mandates and age limits for elected executives. These had been recommended by an Independent Governance Committee set up by Fifa in 2011 to improve its governance and transparency.
The mandates and limits would have required 75-per-cent approval in order to be adopted but, in the event, Uefa was the only one of the six regional confederations to support the proposals, which had been denounced by many members as discriminatory.
Earlier this week, European officials including Uefa vice-president David Gill of England and executive committee member Michael van Praag of the Netherlands led calls for Blatter to step down before next year’s Fifa presidential election.
They cited the need for change as Fifa has faced various allegations of corruption in recent years, including those related to the controversial award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
However, Blatter, who has headed up Fifa since 1998, was indignant at the stance taken by the Uefa members, saying: "That was the most disrespectful thing I have experienced in my entire life."
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 today.
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.
Meanwhile, Michael Garcia, the former US attorney who has been conducting an investigation into claims of wrongdoing in the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups (the former was awarded to Russia), has said that he is studying the same evidence that formed the bedrock of recent UK newspaper reports highlighting alleged corruption in Qatar’s successful bid.
In its extensive investigation, the UK’s Sunday Times newspaper alleged 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.
Garcia, the head of the investigatory chamber of the Fifa ethics committee, claimed yesterday that he had access to the "vast majority" of the millions of documents seen by the newspaper and would take them on board in his conclusions.
The lawyer told the Fifa Congress: "First, no-one should assume what information we have or do not have. We’ve reviewed the recent reports, and all the documents referenced and attached to those reports. The vast majority of that material has been available to us for some time."
Garcia had previously stated that his investigation would be completed this week, with a report to be submitted to the adjudicatory chamber of the Fifa ethics committee in approximately six weeks’ time.
He said on Wednesday: "We have gone to what appears to us to be the original source of that data and we are confident we will have full access to whatever else may be in that data set and we will review that data for anything else relevant prior to issuing any final report."
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.
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.
In other developments at the Fifa Congress, Blatter surprisingly proposed a new television review system under which a team manager would be able to challenge up to two refereeing decisions per match.
Goal-line technology, under which the referee receives confirmation when a goal is scored, is making its World Cup debut in Brazil.
In his closing address in Sao Paulo, Blatter, who was previously resistant to the introduction of technology in soccer, said: "Why don’t we give team managers the possibility of two challenges for referring decisions during the match? And if a manager disagrees with a decision he could ask for an immediate television review with the referee. It’s something new."
Any change to the laws would require the approval of the International Football Association Board, which would have to consider the costs and stoppages necessitated by an increase in the use of technology.