FIFA President Sepp Blatter Falls Short in First Round of Votes in Wake of Corruption Scandal

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FIFA members will vote in a second round of balloting for president Friday, after the group’s longtime leader Joseph “Sepp” Blatter failed to secure the two-thirds vote required for a first-round victory. The vote comes in the wake of allegations by U.S. and Swiss authorities of corruption at the group he has overseen for 17 years.FIFA President Joseph ‘Sepp’ Blatter during the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich on Friday.A second ballot, expected later Friday afternoon, will only require a simple majority for victory.

Mr. Blatter’s opponent on Friday was Prince Ali bin al Hussein, a FIFA vice president from Jordan and the brother of the country’s ruling monarch.

Mr. Blatter, 79 years old, has been at the head of FIFA since 1998 and remains hugely popular in most of the body’s 209 member associations. He wasn’t named in either probe.

He opened the congress with a 22-minute speech, comprising his most extensive public comments since the probes were launched Wednesday.

“Outside the stadium, there are no geographical limits, there are no time limits, and there is no referee,” he said. “There are more than a billion of us [touched by soccer]. How can one tribunal handle all of that?”

ENLARGE

The crux of the problem, according to Mr. Blatter, is that “you cannot just ask people to behave ethically.”

Under FIFA’s ultrademocratic system, every country has the same vote, regardless of size or stature in world soccer. That European powerhouses such as England or Germany carry the same weight as soccer minnows such as Fiji helps explain why Mr. Blatter had won four terms before Friday, with widespread support from Africa, Asia, South America, Central America and Oceania.

FIFA members will vote in a second round of balloting for president Friday, after the group’s longtime leader Joseph “Sepp” Blatter failed to secure the two-thirds vote required for a first-round victory. The vote comes in the wake of allegations by U.S. and Swiss authorities of corruption at the group he has overseen for 17 years.

A second ballot, expected later Friday afternoon, will only require a simple majority for victory.

Mr. Blatter’s opponent on Friday was Prince Ali bin al Hussein, a FIFA vice president from Jordan and the brother of the country’s ruling monarch.

Mr. Blatter, 79 years old, has been at the head of FIFA since 1998 and remains hugely popular in most of the body’s 209 member associations. He wasn’t named in either probe.

He opened the congress with a 22-minute speech, comprising his most extensive public comments since the probes were launched Wednesday.

“Outside the stadium, there are no geographical limits, there are no time limits, and there is no referee,” he said. “There are more than a billion of us [touched by soccer]. How can one tribunal handle all of that?”

 The crux of the problem, according to Mr. Blatter, is that “you cannot just ask people to behave ethically.”

Under FIFA’s ultrademocratic system, every country has the same vote, regardless of size or stature in world soccer. That European powerhouses such as England or Germany carry the same weight as soccer minnows such as Fiji helps explain why Mr. Blatter had won four terms before Friday, with widespread support from Africa, Asia, South America, Central America and Oceania.

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Candidates require a two-thirds majority—140 votes—to win on the first ballot. If neither one obtains that many, voting proceeds to a second ballot where a simple majority will suffice.

Prince Hussein, in a speech in front of FIFA members ahead of the vote on Friday, said it “will take a committed leader to fix this mess we’re in.”

In response to concerns expressed this week by FIFA’s leading sponsors, Mr. Blatter on Friday reiterated their importance in providing the funds that FIFA then redistributes to associations all over the world. He singled out Coca-Cola Co., one of FIFA’s earliest sponsors in the game’s major expansion into television. “Without that partner, we wouldn’t be here,” he said.

The Swiss probe, in particular, centers on the awarding of hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which are due to be held in Russia and Qatar, respectively. The process has been a magnet for controversy ever since it concluded in December 2010. FIFA even appointed former U.S. federal prosecutor Michael J. Garcia to investigate. His report, completed last fall, is still secret, but forms the basis of the investigation by Swiss law enforcement.

“If two other countries had come out of the envelope, I don’t think we’d have these problems today,” Mr. Blatter said.

“I accept that the FIFA president is responsible for everything,” he told the congress. “But I would like to share that responsibility with you.”

Source: Wall Street Journal

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