Fifa corruption arrests: Uefa calls for presidential vote delay after probe

Football’s governing body is determined to carry on as normal, despite the charges of money laundering, wire fraud and racketeering

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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.

“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.