Sepp Blatter was re-elected unopposed as Fifa president, promising to use his final term to radically reform football’s ailing world governing body.
Blatter won the backing of 186 of the 203 voting delegates after brushing aside a late challenge when federations agreed to let the election go ahead despite the lack of a rival and a series of scandals that have damaged the organisation’s credibility.
Even as he returned to the hall to receive flowers and the applause of the majority of voters, Blatter was facing fresh problems after Germany’s influential Football Association called for an investigation into the process that saw Qatar awarded the 2022 World Cup.
Blatter, the 75-year-old Swiss who has run Fifa since 1998, did not address that issue directly but said he was determined to clean up Fifa from within.
“We will put the ship back on course in clear transparent waters,” a triumphant Blatter told delegates.
With Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam having dropped out of the race – he was subsequently suspended pending an inquiry into bribery claims – Blatter effectively sealed victory when England’s motion for a postponement was defeated by 172 votes to 17.
The actual election was a formality. In his keynote address during the morning session of congress, Blatter accepted the need for “radical and neccessary reform” within Fifa, but claimed he was the right man to “captain the ship”.
He appeared to acquiesce to demand by agreeing that all 208 members of Fifa congress should be able to vote on where all future World Cups will be staged.
However, the caveat to Blatter’s lies in the fact the Executive Committee, the 24-person panel who currently decide, will still get to pick the short-list anyway.
The head of Germany’s football federation, Theo Zwanziger, had called for Fifa to re-examine the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, following the corruption scandal.
“There is a considerable degree of suspicion that one cannot simply sweep aside, and I must expect that awarding this World Cup under these conditions needs to be examined anew,” Zwanziger told a German television channel.
“I first would like to comment on how that should be done when I know more about the facts. Like I said, I’m an outsider and was not a member of the executive committee.”
By the time votes were cast in the afternoon, David Bernstein, the chairman of the English Football Association (FA), was already on his way back to the UK.
His earlier attempt to have the election postponed ended in a heavy defeat. Despite his claim that “a coronation without an opponent provides a flawed mandate,” the Fifa members voted by 172 votes to 17 not to postpone the election.
In a statement before leaving, Bernstein said: “It was positive to be joined by 16 other nations in supporting our democratic request for the vote to be delayed, while a further 17 nations abstaining clearly shows that we are not alone or isolated in our views in relation to the current situation Fifa finds itself in.
“We are confident the FA has played a significant role as a catalyst for change in the way World Cup hosts will be selected in the future, following the announcement that, moving forward, Congress will make this decision. This must be a more open, transparent process.”
* With agencies