In a surprise announcement made at a hastily called press conference, Sepp Blatter has resigned as FIFA president, just four days after being elected to a fifth term.
Blatter has been under fire for years for connections to alleged corruption in world soccer’s governing body, with scrutiny increasing after the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) indicted 14 parties on charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering last Wednesday. Six other parties have already plead guilty to similar charges and are cooperating with the DoJ’s ongoing investigation.
While the indictments did not include Blatter, new reports of a $10 million payment by FIFA to former CONCACAF president Jack Warner placed the corruption story closer to his presidency. Those reports indicated the payment, allegedly made as a bribe in connection to the bidding process for South Africa’s 2010 World Cup, was authorized by Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s general secretary and second highest ranking official in the organization. The report moved the corruption allegations from the disparate powers of North and Central America to the doorstep of Blatter in Zurich.
Before today’s press conference, speculation centered around Valcke’s immediate future. Surprisingly, it was Blatter who chose to resign. FIFA’s 290 members will now reconvene for a special Congress, to be held in the fall at the earliest, where delegates will elect the ninth president in organization history. Blatter will continue as FIFA president until his successor is elected.
Beyond that, it is unclear where FIFA goes, particularly given the possibility that a person similar to Blatter assumes the post. Dating back to the presidency of Blatter’s predecessor, Brazilian Joao Havelage, who was first elected in 1974, FIFA has been linked to reports of corruption, many similar to those that finally snared Blatter. Given nearly two-thirds of FIFA’s delegation approved Blatter’s latest candidacy, there may still be support for the status quo.