Blatter facing European backlash

11 June 2014 05:31

England's football chiefs rounded on FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Tuesday telling him he must stand down next year and that his claim racism was behind World Cup corruption allegations was "offensive and totally unacceptable".

FA chairman Greg Dyke responded forcefully to Blatter at a meeting of UEFA federations in Sao Paulo after the FIFA president had addressed the room indicating he would stand again for a fifth term.

Dyke and England's UEFA vice-president David Gill both said Blatter should not commit a U-turn on his 2011 pledge to stand down in 2015.

They were at the forefront of a European rebellion against Blatter, despite the incumbent president appearing to have huge support in other continental confederations.

Dyke said after the meeting: "What Mr Blatter said yesterday I found offensive. I said (to him), 'I regard the comments you made yesterday about the allegations in the British media in which you described them as racist as totally unacceptable.

"The allegations being made have nothing to do with racism, they are allegations about corruption within FIFA. These allegations need to be properly investigated and properly answered.

"Mr Blatter, many of us are deeply troubled by your reaction to these allegations, it's time for FIFA to stop attacking the messenger and instead consider and understand the message."

Dyke added that it was important to clarify whether FIFA's ethics investigator Michael Garcia - who will confirm on Wednesday that he has completed his case - has had access to the files of documents obtained by the Sunday Times alleging corruption in World Cup bidding.

"We need to know from Mr Garcia if he was aware of the material in the Sunday Times before it was published and if not whether he will now extend his investigation to consider these allegations," said Dyke.

Dyke said Blatter should "stick" with his 2011 decision to step down next year and warned that FIFA was suffering from the constant bad publicity.

He added: "We were asked at a meeting fairly recently and our view was that among the British public there wasn't any doubt that brand FIFA is severely damaged and I suspect that's the same throughout large parts of Europe. Whether it is in the rest of the world I don't know."

Gill, the former Manchester United chief executive, said: "The very fact in 2011 he was clear it was just for four years that should have been the situation. To change his mind is disappointing."

Asked if he thought Blatter should step down next year, he added: "Personally yes I think we need to move on. I think we need a full, frank and open debate about what FIFA needs going forward."

Gill also echoed Dyke in that Blatter's comments about racism being behind the Qatar 2022 World Cup corruption allegations was "unacceptable".

African officials were among those alleged to have taken payments from Qatar's former FIFA member Mohamed Bin Hammam, according to the Sunday Times.

Gill said: "The statement made by Mr Blatter yesterday was from our point of view totally incorrect.

"This was about the issue being raised quite rightly in the British media which should be addressed by the world governing body and to try and portray it as racist or a discriminatory attack is totally unacceptable."

UEFA's growing unhappiness also saw Dutch FA chief Michael van Praag, Germany FA president Wolfgang Niersbach and Norway's executive committee member Karen Espelund calling on the 78-year-old not to stand for a fifth term in office.

Van Praag told Blatter to his face he had to take responsibility for all the bad publicity surrounding the world governing body.

Van Praag said: "I took the floor and I said this is nothing personal but if you look at the reputation FIFA has built over the last seven or eight years, with accusations of corruptions, bribery and all kinds of old boys' network things, FIFA has an executive president and that means you are responsible.

"You don't make it very easy on yourself because what you said on Qatar was wrong choice which means you blame your executive committee.

"All these problems occurred when you were president so I believe that you should not run any more."

Van Praag is regarded as a possible challenger to Blatter, along with European clubs' chairman Karl Heinz Rummenigge - although there is no expectation they would beat the incumbent president.

The Dutchman did not rule himself out of mounting a challenge if UEFA president Michel Platini decides not to stand but Niersbach said he would not stand.

Scottish FA chief executive Stewart Regan said Blatter was subjected to some intense questioning.

Regan said: "It was pretty tasty stuff. He got a bit of a grilling to be honest."

Platini said he was "proud" of the European reaction to Blatter.

Asked about the response to Blatter, the Frenchman said: "I was very proud of the Europeans tonight."

Source: PA