Sepp Blatter to stand for fifth term as lawyer backs Fifa corruption inquiry

 

sao paulo

The man conducting Fifa’s investigation into allegations of corruption surrounding the vote to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar said he had access to all the data used by The Sunday Times in its recent reports.

Michael Garcia, a US lawyer, told delegates at yesterday’s Fifa Congress in Sao Paulo that he has already seen much of the material which has split the football world. Last night Fifa president Sepp Blatter said he would stand for a fifth term despite the fall-out from the scandal.

Mr Garcia said he had spoken to a representative of every one of the bidding committees involved in the vote for 2022. “We will review the data and the vast majority of the material has been available to us and will continue to be reviewed,” he said.

Mr Garcia had been due to conclude his report last Monday and will submit it to Hans-Joachim Eckert, a German judge and head of the Ethics Committee’s adjudicatory chamber, in around six weeks.

Although he did not confirm that the new material would be in his report, the suggestion was that the evidence would be included. “I will not postpone my report indefinitely for somebody to publish something.”

Qatar strongly denies any allegations of corruption in the bid process.

Earlier, the Congolese delegate, Omar Selemani, took the floor and read out a resolution passed by the African Confederation earlier in the week which accused the British press of racism and attacking “the entire African continent”.

Mr Selemani also said that there was “deep ignorance of the Fifa organisation in the British press”. His speech was greeted with applause and Mr Blatter said the resolution would be noted and be put in the Congress minutes, commenting: “That is all we can do at this stage in the Congress.”

Earlier, Mr Blatter had also suggested that racism was behind the allegations, and on Tuesday the FA chairman, Greg Dyke, described his remarks as “unacceptable”. But yesterday Mr Dyke and the Football Association sat in stony silence when they were aired again. When Mr Blatter asked if anyone wanted to speak, nobody ventured forward to defend the British media.

Mr Blatter, 78, also used the Congress to get support for a new term when his present one expires next year. Uefa has made it clear it does not support Mr Blatter’s desire to seek another term and would like an age limit of 72 but yesterday Mr Blatter’s supporters rose to say how important it was for the Swiss to continue as long as he wanted.

Michael Garcia, an American lawyer, is investigating allegations of corruption in Fifa (Getty) Michael Garcia, an American lawyer, is investigating allegations of corruption in Fifa (Getty)
A vote on principle as to whether there should be an age limit showed the Congress did not agree with the Europeans and Mr Blatter can go on till he drops.

The way Mr Blatter orchestrated this shows that he remains the most adroit sports politician of all time. So despite coming to the Congress under huge public pressure he decided to turn the tables by presenting himself as the greater reformer and the democrat.

The start of the Congress usually sees the president make several perfunctory remarks before the formal session starts. But Mr Blatter converted the opening remarks into a long speech in effect justifying the way he has run Fifa. He flattered the Congress by saying it was the “supreme body of Fifa”.

Then gesturing to his fellow executive members sitting with him on the platform, he said: “This is my government. I say my government but I am the only one directly elected by you, Congress. These ladies and gentlemen are elected by the different confederations.”

Having presented himself as the great democrat he went on to say that Fifa had gone beyond other sports bodies in having a separation of powers of the executive, the judiciary and the ethics bodies.

And to prove this, Mr Garcia stepped forward to talk about the progress of his investigation.

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