Corruption not Fifa's fault: Blatter

Sepp Blatter addressing a news conference after a Fifa meeting in Zurich.
Sepp Blatter addressing a news conference after a Fifa meeting in Zurich.PHOTO: REUTERS

ZURICH • On the day when one of his former trusted aides was handed a life ban from football, embattled Fifa president Sepp Blatter said yesterday that the world football governing body is not to be blamed for the corruption scandal engulfing the sport.

Chuck Blazer, the former Fifa executive committee member and general secretary of Concacaf - the North, Central American and Caribbean confederation - was banned for life by Fifa for "offer, acceptance, payment and receipt of undisclosed and illegal payments, bribes and kickbacks as well as other money-making schemes".

Blazer, 70, has given evidence to United States authorities investigating football corruption, and admitted he took more than US$11 million (S$15 million) in bribes from 2005 to 2010.

He is pleading guilty to 10 counts, including racketeering, tax evasion, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies.

As a member of the powerful Fifa executive committee, the American influenced the award of World Cup tournaments for years - including the controversial decision to hold the 2022 World Cup Finals in Qatar.

However, Blatter told Swiss newspaper Weltwoche that continental confederations like Concacaf are to blame for the corruption scandal, and Fifa cannot be held responsible for the corrupt actions of individuals like Blazer.

"There is no wrangling under the direct influence of Fifa," he said. "Our influence over contracts concluded by the confederations is practically zero."

Asked whether he bore any responsibility as the head of Fifa, Blatter replied that crime was a part of all walks of life.

"It is impossible to stamp out robbery and murder, even with a functioning courts system down to community level," said the 79-year-old. "Football is not better than our society."

Fifa was thrown into turmoil after 14 sports marketing executives and football officials, including several from Fifa, were indicted by the United States in late May on bribery, money laundering and wire fraud charges.

Seven of those accused were arrested by Swiss police in a dawn raid on a luxury Zurich hotel two days before the Fifa Congress, where Blatter was re-elected for a fifth term as president.

US prosecutors have not accused Blatter of any wrongdoing but, four days after the May arrests, the Swiss said he would lay down his mandate at an extraordinary Fifa Congress which will take place between December and February.

When quizzed on why he did not do more to prevent any wrongdoing within his organisation, Blatter gave a sarcastic explanation.

"(It seems) I'm supposed to see everything, I'm responsible for everything, even for the English women's own goal at the World Cup recently," he said. "Am I responsible for climate change too?"

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2015, with the headline 'Corruption not Fifa's fault: Blatter'. Print Edition | Subscribe