Blatter insists 'I am not a dictator' and plays straight bat to critics

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The Independent Online

Beleaguered Fifa president Sepp Blatter denied he ran Fifa like a dictatorship yesterday but refused to make any comment on his former ally Mohamed bin Hammam, who was banned from football for life on Saturday on corruption charges.

He also refused to answer criticism from Germany's Karl-Heinz Rummenigge who said in an interview yesterday that no one believed Blatter when he said he was trying to clean up football.

Bin Hammam, who is planning to appeal the ruling by Fifa's ethics committee, claimed at the weekend that Blatter was a dictator who silenced anyone that opposed the way he ran the game's world governing body. The 75-year-old Swiss also came under attack from former international player Rummenigge, now president of the European Clubs Association, who told the Guardian that the time had come to change Fifa's "corrupt leadership".

Blatter, in Rio for Saturday's preliminary round draw for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil, refused to comment on what either Bin Hammam or Rummenigge had said.

However, at the end of a long, rambling answer, he was asked about his old friendship with Bin Hammam, who was going to run against Blatter for the Fifa presidency on 1 June, before withdrawing his candidature after being accused of bribery. Those charges were upheld by the ethics committee on Saturday who banned him from football for life. The pair fell out when Bin Hammam was preparing to challenge Blatter.

Blatter said: "I am not a dictator. I am not alone, I work with my executive committee, with my administration, and with a lot of advisers. They know what it means to have transparency on one side, and anti-corruption on the other side. Do not forget that in Fifa we have 300 million people who work directly in football and in 300 million you cannot have only good people."

Meanwhile Blatter announced the Premier League and any others who want to introduce goalline technology will be able to do so as long as the law-making International Football Association Board approves it next March.

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