Blatter in April 2015
|8th President of FIFA|
8 June 1998 – 26 February 2016
(ejected from office)
|Preceded by||João Havelange|
Issa Hayatou (Acting)|
10 March 1936
Visp, Valais, Switzerland
Barbara Käser (m. 1981–91)
Graziella Bianca (m. 2002–04)
Ilona Boguska (1995–2002)|
Linda Barras (2014–present)
From a background in business, public relations, and sports administration, Blatter became general secretary of FIFA in 1981 and was then elected president at the 51st FIFA Congress on 8 June 1998, succeeding João Havelange, who had headed the organization since 1974. Blatter was re-elected in 2002, 2007, 2011, and 2015. Like his predecessor Havelange, Blatter sought to increase the influence of African and Asian countries in world football through the expansion of participating teams in various FIFA tournaments.
He has persistently been dogged by claims of corruption and financial mismanagement. Blatter's reign has overseen a vast expansion in revenues generated by the FIFA World Cup accompanied by the collapse of the marketing company International Sport and Leisure and numerous allegations of corruption in the bidding processes for the awarding of FIFA tournaments.
On 2 June 2015, six days after the United States government indicted several current and former FIFA officials and sports marketing companies for bribery and money laundering, Blatter announced that he would call for elections to choose a new president of FIFA and that he would not stand in these elections, but he also said he would remain in his position until an extraordinary FIFA Congress could be held for his successor to be elected. Criminal proceedings were announced against Blatter by the Swiss Attorney General's office on 25 September 2015, regarding "criminal mismanagement... and misappropriation".
In October 2015, Blatter and other top FIFA officials were suspended amid the investigation, and in December the independent FIFA Ethics Committee ejected Blatter from office and banned him from taking part in any FIFA activities over the following eight years. On 24 February 2016, a FIFA appeals committee upheld the suspension but reduced it from eight years to six. Issa Hayatou served as the acting President of FIFA until an extraordinary FIFA Congress was held in late February, electing Gianni Infantino as the 9th president of FIFA.
Blatter was born in Visp in the Swiss canton of Valais with the given name of Josef. He studied in Saint Maurice, before getting a degree in business and economics from the University of Lausanne in 1959. Blatter has had a long and varied career, including posts such as head of public relations for the tourist board of his native canton, as well as general secretary of the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation.
From 1975 onwards, Blatter worked at FIFA, first as technical director (1975–1981), then general secretary (1981–1998), before his election as FIFA president in 1998. He was re-elected as head of FIFA in 2002, and was re-elected unopposed for another four years on 31 May 2007, even though only 66 of 207 FIFA members nominated him.
Blatter and FIFA have often been dogged by controversy and allegations of corruption. His tenure has seen controversy over allegations of financial mismanagement and the acceptance of bribes resulting in Qatar's successful 2022 World Cup bid. Blatter has attracted criticism from the media, senior football figures and players, due to controversial statements.
These include the claim that Latin American countries would applaud John Terry for having an extramarital affair, and that on-field racism could be corrected with a handshake, among others. He also drew criticism at the 2014 FIFA World Cup seeding, when he interrupted a "one-minute silence" for former South-African president Nelson Mandela, who died the day before, after eleven seconds. Michael van Praag, the chairman of the Royal Dutch Football Association, called his behavior "preposterous" and expressed the hope Blatter would not be reelected in 2015.
Blatter has been publicly heckled, at the World Cup in Seoul and the Confederations Cup in Frankfurt, both in 2006, in his home town of Visp in 2011, at the 2012 Women's Olympic Football Final Medal Ceremony, and at the opening of Confederations Cup match in 2013. In order to avoid protest, no speeches were given at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Sepp Blatter's 1998 election to the presidency of FIFA over UEFA President Lennart Johansson occurred amidst much controversy. Blatter's 2002 candidacy has been marked with rumours of financial irregularities and backroom dealings, culminating with direct accusations of bribery, by a third party, made in the British press by Farra Ado, vice-president of the Confederation of African Football and president of the Somali Football Federation, who claimed to have been offered $100,000 to vote for Blatter in 1998.
2006 FIFA World Cup
In the 2006 FIFA World Cup, after a controversial second-round match between Portugal and the Netherlands, which saw referee Valentin Ivanov issue a record 16 yellow cards and four red cards, Blatter was said to have lambasted the officiating referee, and said that Ivanov should have given himself a yellow card for his poor performance as a referee. He later claimed to regret his words and promised to officially apologise to Ivanov.
Foreign 'over-representation' on club teams
Blatter was criticized in 2007 and 2008 for trying to change European Union employment law regarding the number of foreign players that football clubs could field at any one time. His plans were to set a restriction of five foreign players and having six players from the said team's own nationality. Blatter believed this would help the countries' national sides by having more national players playing in their leagues.
Blatter has often referred to the English Premier League as one of the major problems in football and used it as an example, due to the influence of foreign players, coaches and owners in the top teams.
World Cup's chosen sites
It was reported that Blatter had "cut an unofficial deal with UEFA head Michel Platini" to ensure Europe would receive the 2018 World Cup, such that if the non-European bids did not withdraw from 2018 "they will find themselves frozen out and not given any backing by the FIFA High Command, damaging their chances of being serious contenders for the second tournament."
Eleven bids were submitted in March 2009 covering 13 nations. Mexico and Indonesia withdrew. Five of the remaining nine bids—South Korea, Qatar, Japan, Australia and the United States—were only for the 2022 World Cup, while all the others were bidding for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
However, since all of the bids for the 2018 World Cup were from European nations, and FIFA's rules dictate that countries belonging to confederations that hosted either of the two preceding tournaments are not eligible to host, the bids of England, Russia, Netherlands/Belgium and Spain/Portugal were forced to be for 2018 only.
The criticism attracted by Blatter's refusal to allow goal-line technology or video replays intensified following the controversial Frank Lampard disallowed goal in the match between England and Germany on 27 June 2010.
Two days later, Blatter stated that he deplored the "evident referee mistakes" in the England v Germany and Mexico v Argentina matches, and apologised to the English Football Association and the Mexican Football Federation (the two organizations directly concerned by the referees' mistakes), acknowledging that Lampard had indeed scored against Germany and that Tévez's goal against Mexico had been scored from an offside position.
He added: "It is obvious that after the experiences so far at this World Cup it would be a nonsense not to re-open the file on goal-line technology. […] We will come out with a new model in November on how to improve high level referees. […] I cannot disclose more of what we are doing but something has to be changed."
2011 FIFA presidential election
In 2011, elections were scheduled for the FIFA presidency, in which Blatter was again the incumbent candidate, running for a fourth consecutive term. The ChangeFIFA organisation, on 29 March 2011, endorsed former Chilean defender and for three years running South American Footballer of the Year Elías Figueroa as candidate for the presidency, urging national federations to nominate him, but, subsequently, Figueroa decided not to accept the nomination, stating that "in such a short period of time" he could not develop a case "worthy of the magnitude and importance of such a distinguished job"
The vote took place at the 61st FIFA Congress in Zurich. The only other candidate, Mohammed bin Hammam of Qatar, withdrew from the presidential race on 28 May, just before the vote. Bin Hammam had supported Blatter's 1998 and 2002 presidential campaigns, but admitted that he had fallen out with Blatter over issues within the FIFA Executive Committee. The FIFA ethics committee that investigated bribery claims against Bin Hammam and CONCACAF head Jack Warner announced that Blatter will not face an investigation into claims that he knew of the bribery and did nothing about it, because of a lack of evidence.
Blatter criticised the International Olympic Committee (IOC), stating FIFA manage their finances "like a housewife", after the IOC announced it would look into allegations of corruption against Issa Hayatou, president of the Confederation of African Football.
There being no other nominations, Blatter ran unopposed in the ensuing presidential election and was re-elected for a fourth term, with 186 of the 203 votes cast. In his campaign, Blatter had stipulated that, if re-elected in 2011, he would not run again for president. Blatter received criticism for not postponing his 2011 election in which his term as FIFA President was extended through 2015, despite the fact that all other candidates for the role had been suspended or withdrew.
Allegations of financial mismanagement
Amidst internal divisions, FIFA's secretary-general Blatter's deputy and former protégé Michel Zen-Ruffinen drew up a 30-page dossier outlining allegations of financial mismanagement within the organisation. The dossier alleged that the collapse of FIFA's marketing partner ISL had led to losses of up to $100m under Blatter's management.
The allegations were backed by Johansson, and the dossier was handed to the Swiss authorities, but they cleared Blatter of any wrongdoing and FIFA had to pay all the costs. An internal investigation within FIFA was halted by Blatter because members of it broke confidentiality agreements. This questionable behaviour led him to remove Zen-Ruffinen from office immediately before the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
In April 2012 the Council of Europe published a report which stated it would be "difficult to imagine" that Blatter would have been unaware of "significant sums" paid to unnamed FIFA officials by ISSM/ISL in connection with lucrative contracts for World Cup television rights and the subsequent bankruptcy and collapse of ISL in 2001. The Council of Europe report will be considered by over 300 parliamentarians from the 47 Council of Europe member states in Strasbourg.
Awarding of 2018 and 2022 World Cup
Controversy came in the British press when Russia was awarded the 2018 event, with England receiving just two of their "promised" votes; this controversy was dismissed by Blatter as the English showing themselves to be "bad losers". The awarding of the 2022 games to Qatar was also controversial. The illegality of homosexuality in the nation caused Blatter to joke that "I would say they [gay fans] should refrain from any sexual activities", which brought criticism from retired basketball player John Amaechi and gay rights groups.
2013 FIFA Ethics Committee investigation
On 29 April 2013, FIFA's Ethics Committee concluded its investigation into allegations of illegal payments to FIFA officials from the organisation's former marketing partner International Sports and Leisure (ISL), which went bankrupt in 2001, and published its report.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter was cleared of any misconduct, but his predecessor, Brazilian João Havelange, resigned as FIFA's honorary president over his part in the scandal, since Havelange along with former FIFA Executive Committee members Ricardo Teixeira and Dr. Nicolas Leoz were found to have accepted illegal payments between 1992 and May 2000. A week before FIFA's ethics committee announced its findings, 84-year-old Leoz had resigned from his post as president of the South American Football Confederation, citing "health reasons".
Blatter, in a statement, "note[d] with satisfaction" that the report "confirms that 'President Blatter's conduct could not be classified in any way as misconduct with regard to any ethics rules'." He added he has "no doubt that FIFA, thanks to the governance reform process that [Blatter] proposed now has the mechanisms and means to ensure that such an issue does not happen again", though admitting that the scandal "has caused untold damage to the reputation of [FIFA]."
2015 FIFA presidential election, controversy, and resignation
In 2015, elections were scheduled for the FIFA presidency, in which Blatter was again the incumbent candidate, running for a fifth consecutive term. Prince Ali bin Hussein was his opponent in the election.
The vote took place at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zürich on 29 May 2015. Neither party received the necessary two-thirds majority of votes from the first round with Blatter receiving 133 to Prince Ali's 73. According to FIFA rules, a second round should have been held for the two candidates, with a simple majority being sufficient for victory. However, before the second round of voting commenced, Prince Ali announced his withdrawal, handing Blatter victory by default.
On 2 June 2015, FIFA abruptly called a press conference at their Zürich headquarters, where Blatter announced that he would resign from the post of FIFA president amid the ongoing corruption scandal.
During the news conference he said: "My mandate does not appear to be supported by everybody" and announced an extraordinary congress scheduled "as soon as possible" to elect his successor. Blatter announced that he would remain in office until his successor could be elected at the extraordinary congress, likely to be held some time between December 2015 and March 2016. He continued with words: "While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football—the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe, and love football as much as we all do at FIFA".
Subsequently, on 26 June Blatter prompted speculation that he might be preparing to renege on this resignation, when he was quoted as saying that "I have not resigned, I put my mandate in the hands of an extraordinary congress". This seemed to contradict his comments from 2 June 2015. He was further quoted as saying that he resigned "to take away the pressure from FIFA and my employees, including [pressure] from the sponsors". Reports speculated that it appears that Blatter will step-down at the "extraordinary congress" though the situation remains vague.
On 25 September, Swiss investigators announced that they were investigating Blatter in relation to payments made to UEFA president Michel Platini. While Blatter and Platini denied any impropriety around the payments, major FIFA sponsors Coca-Cola, Visa Inc., McDonald's, and Budweiser issued public statements requesting that he resign for the good of FIFA.
On 8 October 2015 he was suspended from FIFA for 90 days while investigations into payments made to Michel Platini were conducted. FIFA said in a statement: "The grounds for these decisions are the investigations that are being carried out by the investigatory chamber of the ethics committee." On 21 December, FIFA's ethics committee banned both Blatter and Platini from football for eight years. In February 2016, a FIFA appeals committee upheld the suspension but reduced it from eight years to six.
Blatter's first wife was Liliane Biner. The couple had a daughter, Corinne, and divorced shortly after. In 1981, Blatter married Barbara Käser, the daughter of Helmut Käser, Blatter's predecessor as secretary general of FIFA. Their marriage lasted ten years until Barbara died from complications after an operation. In 1995, Blatter began dating Ilona Boguska, a Polish friend of his daughter Corinne, before they separated in 2002.
Blatter married for a third time on 23 December 2002, to Graziella Bianca, a dolphin trainer who was a friend of his daughter. Their marriage ended in divorce in 2004. Since 2014, he is in a domestic partnership with Linda Barras.
Blatter is a Catholic.
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