European football’s governing body Uefa has called for Friday’s Fifa presidential election to be postponed in the wake of dawn arrests at Fifa’s official hotel in Zurich over corruption charges.
The body’s top officials have threatened to boycott Fifa’s congress altogether after they held an emergency meeting in Warsaw prior to the Europa League final.
They concluded Uefa’s preferred candidate, Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein, would not be able to prevent the Fifa president Sepp Blatter’s re-election even after the extraordinary developments.
Football’s governing body, Fifa, is determined to carry on as normal, despite the arrests of several of its officials on charges of money laundering, wire fraud and racketeering.
Uefa consists of 54 of Fifa’s 209 member nations. If all boycotted the congress, it would represent a near-fatal blow to the legitimacy of the vote, but many of its members are supportive of Blatter, particularly in eastern Europe.
Uefa said in a statement: “The upcoming Fifa congress risks turning into a farce and therefore the European associations will have to consider carefully if they should even attend this congress and caution a system, which, if it is not stopped, will ultimately kill football.”
Blatter is not among the 14 officials indicted by the US Department of Justice following years of investigation by the FBI, and while he failed to show at either of his two planned public appearances in Zurich, Fifa’s director of communications, Walter de Gregorio, denied Blatter had been lobbying for a delay to the planned presidential ballot. De Gregorio even welcomed developments.
The Fifa bigwigs facing charges
The Fifa bigwigs facing charges
1/14 Jeffrey Webb, 50, Cayman Iskands
A Fifa vice president. His arrest came as a big surprise, as he had been tipped as the man to clean up Fifa once Blatter departs. Webb is also president of Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) and the Cayman Islands Football Association
2/14 Costas Takkas, 58, UK
A British citizen, Mr Takkas is currently an attache to the Concacaf president. He was previously general secretary of the Cayman Islands Football Association, of which Mr Webb is president
3/14 Jack Warner, 72, (pictured), Daryan Warner, 46 and Daryll Warner, 40, Trinidad & Tobago
The former Fifa vice president and head of Concacaf was a dominant force in football for 30 years, but was suspended from his roles in 2011 amid accusations of corruption dating back to the 1980s and an investigation by Fifa's ethics committee. He later resigned, ending the proceedings against him. Daryan Warner, the son of Jack Warner is also believed to have co-operated with the FBI. He pleaded guiltyin October 2013 to wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and the structuring of financial transactions, forfeiting $1.1m. Daryll Warner, another of Jack Warner's sons, he pleaded guilty to various offences in July 2013. A former Fifa development officer, he lost the job in 2012 after his father's resignation amid corruption allegations. He and his brother both face up to 10 years in prison
4/14 Charles Blazer, 70, USA
The former Concacaf general secretary reportedly turned "supergrass" to help the FBI inestigation, using a bugging device hidden inside a key fob to record meetigs with his Fifa colleagues at the London 2012 Olympics. In November 2013 he pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, and income tax evasion. Seriously ill with colon cancer
5/14 Rafael Esquivel, 68, Venezuela
Executive committee member of the South American Football Confederetion (Conmebol). It is alleged that officials at Conmebol, which organises the Copa America, received bribes from marketing executives
6/14 Eugenio Figueredo, 83, USA/Uruguay
The Fifa vice president and executive committee member is a big name in world football, having previously been at the head of Conmebol and the Uruguayan Football Association. A former right-back
7/14 Nicolas Leoz, 86, Paraguay
A former Fifa executive committee member and Conmebol president. When he retired in 2013 for health reasons, he said: "I've not stolen so much as a cent"
8/14 Eduardo Li, 56, Costa Rica
President of the Costa Rican Football Federation. He was elected to Fifa's executive commitee in March
9/14 José Maria Marin, 83, Brazil
The former president of the Brazilian Football Confederation is also a member of Fifa's committee for Olympic tournaments
10/14 Julio Rocha, 64, Nicaragua
Fifa development officer. Previously president of his country's football federation
11/14 José Hawilla, 71, Brazil
The owner and founder of the Traffic Group, a sports marketing conglomerate, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy in 2014. Two of his companies - Traffic Sports International Inc and Traffic Sports USA Inc - have also pleaded guilty
12/14 Aaron Davidson, 44, USA
President of Traffic Sports USA, is a large promoter of football events in America
13/14 Alejandro Burzaco, 50, (pictured), Hugo Jinkis, 70 and Mariano Jinkis, 40, Argentina
Alejandro Burzaco, a media executive who controls Torneos y Competencias, a sports marketing business. Hugo Jinkis, is the president of Full Play Group, a sports marketing business in Argentina. His son Mariano, is vice president
14/14 José Margulies (AKA José Lazaro), 75, Brazil
Although he is in broadcasting, it is alleged he served as an intermediary to facilitate illicit payments between sports marketing executives and Fifa officials
“This for Fifa is good,” he said in a hastily arranged press conference at Fifa’s headquarters. “It’s not good in terms of image, it’s not good in terms of reputation, but in terms of cleaning up, everything we did in the last four years, this is good.”
The FA president, Greg Dyke, is due to arrive in Switzerland on Thursday morning and will meet with other European football leaders to work out how to proceed. He said the developments were “very serious for Fifa and its current leadership”.
Dyke added: “As one of the associations who nominated Prince Ali, it will not surprise you to learn that if the election for president goes ahead, the FA will be voting for him. However, there must be a question mark over whether the election should take place in these circumstances.
“Clearly, things are changing quickly and our delegation, which I am leading, will discuss the position and what we should do with our colleagues in Uefa when we meet.”
The new Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch, said she fully backed the FA’s position and called for “serious reform at the top of Fifa”.
But how that can take place is not clear. In Brooklyn, the US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, said the corruption allegations implicated “two generations” of leaders at Fifa, with the man many had seen as the moderniser, Concacaf president Jeffrey Webb, among them.
There is no provision in the Fifa statutes to delay the presidential election, nor to widen the pool of candidates, with only Blatter and Prince Ali standing.
The former Uefa head, Lennart Johansson, who contested the 1998 election, when Blatter’s reign started, called for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments to be removed from Russia and Qatar.
He said: “I expect they will reconsider the decisions. Blatter himself has said that the decision to go east wasn’t proper.”
Johansson would like to see the 2018 finals played in England. “They [England] haven’t had it since 1966, and it’s considered ‘the motherland of football’. They are worthy of the attention,” Johansson said.Reuse content