Re-elected FIFA president Sepp Blatter has attacked the British media over what he claims is unbalanced reporting around the FBI’s investigation into football’s governing body.
Buoyed by the relative ease he was able to secure a fifth term in office, Blatter fired a broadside at his critics who have called for his resignation in the wake of several arrests by the FBI of his closest aides. After he denied being the unnamed official who authorised a $10m bribe to disgraced former FIFA vice president Jack Warner, Blatter rounded on his detractors and warned: “I forgive but I don’t forget.”
He said the alleged negative coverage was done out of spite for England’s failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup, a callback to allegations he made last summer when he was under pressure to sign off an investigation into the controversial decision to award the 2022 tournament to Qatar. He saved some anger for the US and said it was “curious” that there were three American journalists placed at the same Zurich hotel that the arrests of the FIFA officials took place.
“No one is going to tell me that it was a simple coincidence, this American attack two days before the elections of Fifa. It doesn’t smell right. This has touched me and Fifa,” Blatter is reported to have said.
“There are signs that cannot be ignored. The Americans were the candidates for the World Cup of 2022 and they lost. The English were the candidates for 2018 and they lost, so it was really the English media and the American movement.”
The spiky comments were delivered at Blatter’s first press conference yesterday (30 May) after he fought off competition from Prince Bin al-Hussein to retain his presidency over FIFA.
Since he ascended to the top of FIFA 17 years ago, Blatter has regularly batted away accusations of corruption though the latest investigation by American law officials has sparked some of the widest calls for reform, spanning sponsors - including Visa and Coke - industry commentators and European football chiefs.
Last week, FBI agents descended on a luxury hotel in Zurich to arrest several high-ranking officials at the governing body as part of an investigation into corruption across the organisation. Sponsors including McDonald's and Budweser moved to distance themselves from the latest scandal in the ensuing furore but stopped short of cutting ties to the extremely valuable marketing platform that is the World Cup.