Sepp Blatter: The Rise And Fall Of The Football Dictator
Blatter has had a 17 year dominant, dictator like rule over FIFA. Controversial but successful is what his tenure has been for footballs highest governing body.
From being a puppet organisation that just used to organize World Cup’s every four years, he has made FIFA the most powerful and rich sporting organisation in the world.
Blatter, who was opposed by Europe’s highest football governing body UEFA, managed to win the elections held on Saturday, defeating Prince Ali of Jordon.
But even after getting re-elected, Blatter was under tremendous pressure not just from UEFA, but from some of his close aids to resign. Sepp Blatter has officially resigned from his post on Monday.
And as the dictatorial rule of Sepp Blatter comes to an end, here is a timeline of the rise and fall of one of the most controversial sports administrators.
Introduction To FIFA And 1998 Election
Blatter joined FIFA in 1975 as a technical director and remained on the post till 1981.
Blatter then became the right-hand man of FIFA, as he became the general secretary in 1981.
He remained the general secretary till 1998, working under the FIFA president Joao Havelange.
After 17 years as the top deputy to the retiring Joao Havelange, in 1998 he became Fifa president after a bitter battle with UEFA’s then president Lennart Johansson, a struggle which lasted till mid-2000’s.
Sepp Blatter’s 1998 election to the presidency of FIFA over Johansson occurred amidst much controversy.
Farra Ado, vice-president of the Confederation of African Football and president of the Somali Football Federation, claimed he was offered $100,000 to vote for Blatter in 1998.
FIFA’s marketing partner, the Swiss company International Sport and Leisure (I.S.L.), whom Blatter had hired to oversee the next two World Cups, was thought to be likely to cost him his job.
ISL’s bankruptcy lost Fifa £40m, and criminal charges against members of the company were quickly followed by the cancellation of the World Club Championship – a competition dubbed ‘Blatter’s baby’.
The company collapsed with debts of more than $100 million, putting FIFA in financial peril and threatening to cost Blatter his job.
Investigations by the Swiss authorities and FIFA later document tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks to FIFA executives in commercial deals with the organization, but Blatter was not implicated.
The FIFA report called his conduct “clumsy” but declared it did not involve “criminal or ethical misconduct.
Challenge From Within
In 2002, Blatter’s chief deputy, General Secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen, submitted a dossier to the Swiss authorities on behalf of other Executive Committee members that accused Blatter of financial mismanagement, conflicts of interest and abuse of power.
Blatter seemed more concerned with keeping the issue within FIFA.
In April 2002 he acknowledged that he ended the investigation into FIFA’s finances to preserve the confidentiality of several members accused of wrongdoing.
Zen-Ruffinen lost the power struggle and left FIFA.
FIFA vice president Issa Hayatou ran against Sepp Blatter in 2002.
Hayatou accused Blatter of “illegal practices”.
But despite many of his loyalists turing against him and the new accusations of bribery, Blatter won the re-election over his African challenger, Issa Hayatou.
Decisions And Controversies
In 2004 FIFA released its first code of ethics. Prior to that, it had no ethics, rules whatsoever.
Blatter also made a sexist remark about womens football in 2004 that landed him in controversies when he said “Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”
FIFA vice president Jack Warner, the president of the Trinidad and Tobago soccer federation, was accused of a massive fraud involving the resale of tickets to the World Cup in Germany through a travel company controlled by his family.
FIFA later cleared Warner, who reportedly made a $1 million profit, and merely expressed “disapproval” at his conduct.
Blatter won for the third time in a row, this time unopposed as he thwarted several potential challengers having fortified a bloc of support that serves him still.
While football’s richest clubs and competitions are in Europe, FIFA’s rules give every country in the world the same voice in the presidential vote.
So, even after being opposed by some of the powerful Football Associations Blatter won.
Year after year he travelled across the globe to attend conferences, charming the officials and perhaps deliver funds for local development projects.
In 2008, Blatter fined croatia just £15000 in racism incident, and was heavily criticised for the lack of efforts by FIFA to give maximum punishment.
Blatter appeared to incur much criticism during 2007 and 2008 for his apparent persistence in attempting to change European Union employment law regarding the number of foreign players football clubs can field at any one time.
His plans were to set a restriction to five foreign players and having six players from the said team’s own nationality.
Accusations of bribery, financial mismanagement and World Cup bid-rigging, though surely present before Blatter took office. These events had become alarmingly commonplace by his third term.
The bidding process to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups brought out even more.
Critics pointed out that the decision to award two World Cups at once was flawed from the start, since it would invite vote-trading and other inducements, and that is exactly what happened.
Competing bidders cut deals to support one another, and two members of the governing Executive Committee Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti were suspended before the vote could take place after an investigation caught both men on tape asking for payments in exchange for their support.
It was later revealed by England’s bid chief that four members had asked for bribes from him for their votes. One asked for $2.5 million, while another requested a knighthood.
When FIFA finally mounted an ethics investigation after Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022) won the hosting rights, it declared that while violations of the code of ethics had occurred, they had not affected the integrity of the vote.
The investigator who had done the research, the former United States attorney Michael J. Garcia, promptly quit in protest.
In 2011 a new crisis began.
It began weeks before the FIFA presidential election when a FIFA vice president, the Concacaf president Jack Warner, arranged a meeting of Caribbean soccer officials with the presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar.
Bin Hammam, a supporter of Blatter’s in his first presidential campaigns, had challenged him for the presidency, and the meeting in May 2010 at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, was ostensibly an opportunity for bin Hammam to seek support from potential voters.
The problem was that one delegate, Fred Lunn of the Bahamas, received an envelope with $40,000 inside.
He reported the offer, and took a picture of the money before returning it. Nearly three dozen officials were later either barred or suspended by FIFA as a result of the payments.
Bin Hammam dropped out of the race, and Blatter was elected to a fourth term, again with no opposition.
By the time all the punishments had been handed out, the scandals of 2010 and 2011 had led to the ouster or resignation of the presidents of four of FIFA’s six regional confederations.
Blatter again created controversy in 2011 when he suggested, despite volumes of evidence to the contrary, that there was no racism in soccer, and that even if there is, that players should just “shake hands” and move on if it occurs.
He also proposed that gay fans planning to attend the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where homosexuality is a crime, merely “refrain from any sexual activities” while in the Arab emirate.
The End Of Blatter!
Early morning on May 27, authorities in Switzerland and elsewhere began an operation to arrest 14 soccer officials and sports executives on corruption charges that the police said dated back decades.
Those indicted included several current and former members of FIFA’s executive committee and a host of other figures.
The police also seized electronic data and documents at FIFA headquarters in Zurich and Concacaf headquarters in Florida.
On June 2, 2015, Sepp Blatter said that he would resign from the presidency of FIFA in the wake of a corruption inquiry.
He said he would ask FIFA to schedule a new election for his replacement as soon as possible. The next FIFA congress is May 2016, but Mr. Blatter acknowledged that FIFA could not wait very long for new leadership given the current situation.
“This mandate does not seem to be supported by everybody in the world of football,” Blatter said Tuesday at a hastily arranged news conference in Zurich. “FIFA needs a profound restructuring.”
At a brief, hastily called news conference in Zurich, Blatter said that “FIFA needs a profound restructuring.” “I appreciate and love FIFA more than anything else,” he said. “And I only want to do the best for FIFA.” Mr. Blatter declined to take questions after his remarks.