Fifa at peace, on reform path – Blatter

2012-07-25 10:42

London – Corruption allegations and other problems haunt him in an almost endless succession, but Fifa president Joseph Blatter smiled as he said the governing body of world football is at “peace” and on the path of reform.

“There is peace in Fifa. So let’s just go through the reform process,” Blatter told reporters in London at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session.

Last week, IOC president Jacques Rogge said he planned to have a conversation with the IOC member Blatter on the corruption scandals that have shaken Fifa.

However, the IOC is not planning to launch a formal probe on the issue. Rogge said the IOC executive board discussed it but opted to wait for the results of Fifa’s own ethics committee probe.

There are allegations that Blatter, 76, who has led fifa since 1998, knew of the bribes that were paid to Fifa officials by now defunct Swiss marketing firm ISL.

Blatter himself said he only became aware of the schemes after ISL went bankrupt in 2001.

According to documents released this month in Switzerland, former FIFA president Joao Havelange is alleged to have made at least 1.5 million Swiss francs (12.8 million rand) in March 1997 from ISL in connection with World Cup contracts.

Fellow Brazilian Ricardo Teixeira, a former Fifa executive committee member and Brazilian football federation president as well as Havelange’s ex son-in-law, allegedly received more than 12 million Swiss francs (102 million rand) from 1974-98.

Blatter, who was Fifa secretary-general under Havelange, declined to say in London whether he had already discussed the issue with Rogge.

Markus Siegler, Blatter’s formerly loyal communications director, recently attacked him.

“It is not possible for him to not have known (of the bribes) or for him not to know much. To this day, you don’t do anything without Blatter knowing,” Siegler told German television about the football body, which he left in 2007.

Haunted by the allegations, Fifa earlier this month launched a two-chamber ethics committee led by Michael Garcia of the United States as prosecutor and German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert.

Blatter – who boasted Tuesday that England’s Queen Elizabeth once told Rogge that he did not need to introduce the head of Fifa to her because the two already knew each other – asked that Garcia and Eckert be left alone to work.

“I’m very confident that we have two very strong and independent people at the helm of this committee,” he said.

“Let them work now.”

The never-ending case around Mohamed bin Hammam is something that Blatter would rather not talk about.

The Qatari official stepped down from the Fifa presidential campaign in 2011 over bribery accusations and was banned by Fifa for life.

But he took his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport which overturned the ban last week.

“No comment for the time being on that,” Blatter said.

Is the ethics committee to probe his election as Fifa president in 1998?

Blatter smiles at a question that hints at the persistent allegations of vote buying in the face-off between himself and Sweden’s Lennart Johansson.

“If there’s anything wrong, we now have this committee,” he said.

Blatter was annoyed by suggestions that the ethics committee may not have a sufficient budget to do its job properly.

“It is the decision of the Congress of Fifa and we have to put all resources at their disposal so they can do their job. This is a reform process! We are going forward!”

When asked whether there are enough funds for the committee to be thorough, Blatter’s look combined sarcasm and annoyance.

“Naturally there’s a budget there, otherwise you cannot do the job,” he said.

“It’s not just to phone somebody. You have to work on that, you know how investigations are made.”

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