Blatter under fresh fire ahead of FIFA meet
From corruption investigations in the United States and Switzerland to the sudden suspension of his right-hand man, FIFA chief Sepp Blatter can expect a barrage of questions when he faces the media on Friday.
Blatter’s press conference, his first appearance since the removal of FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, will follow a two-day executive committee meeting where the seemingly-endless scandals at world football’s sleaze-tainted governing body are on the agenda.
Since the executive committee last met, much of the news surrounding FIFA has been less than positive.
On Wednesday, the Swiss justice ministry approved the extradition to the US of Rafael Esquivel, a Venezuelan ex-FIFA official who was among those arrested in a dawn raid in Zurich in May.
Switzerland has also approved the transfer to US jurisdiction of former FIFA vice-president Eugenio Figueredo, <g data-gr-id="40">a Uruguayan,</g> with extradition decisions on four other suspects due in the coming days.
Last week also saw Valcke’s sacking on allegations that he participated in a massive black market ticket-selling scheme surrounding the 2014 World Cup. Valcke fiercely denies the allegations and has vowed to fight them.
Three days before Valcke was dismissed, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said her sweeping investigation into decades of <g data-gr-id="48">graft</g> at FIFA was expanding and was likely to lead to more people being charged.
It was Lynch who uncorked the crisis at FIFA in May, when her office unsealed indictments against 14 people - nine football officials and five sports marketing executives - accused of involvement in a bribery scandal worth more than USD 150 million (134 million euros) since 1991.
Speaking next to Lynch in Zurich last week, Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber said his separate probe into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups had led to assets being seized, including flats in the Swiss Alps.
Lauber has not given any indication as to who may be charged in the Swiss inquiry, but FIFA officials have conceded that if there is clear evidence that bribes were paid during the bidding, both Russia and Qatar could lose hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, respectively.
Lauber made clear that his investigation had “not yet reached half-time.” Blatter’s press conference at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich is set for 2 pm (1200 GMT) Friday, following the executive committee meeting which opens on Thursday afternoon.
The committee is expected to hear reports on a range of subjects, including preparations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, but much of the public attention is likely focused on two items.
They include the initial proposals from FIFA’s new reform committee, which has, among other measures, floated the idea of term-limits for the body’s president and greater financial transparency on compensation for top officials. The committee’s update on the US and Swiss investigations will also be closely watched.