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England, sponsors add to Blatter’s problems
ZURICH (AP) - The turmoil surrounding FIFA escalated Tuesday with calls for the presidential election to be postponed and top global sponsors wary that the corruption scandal is damaging soccer.
Soccer’s governing body is “shaking on its foundations,” FIFA President Sepp Blatter said at the opening of a congress that is expected to elect him to another four-year term Wednesday.
With Blatter the only candidate after Qatar’s Mohamed bin Hammam withdrew from the race Sunday amid bribery allegations, the English and Scottish Football Associations said the election lacked the credibility to counter the flood of allegations rocking FIFA.
That was unlikely to affect Blatter’s coronation to a fourth term, although he did acknowledge the toll of the scandals.
“I thought we were in a world of fair play, respect and discipline and unfortunately I have to see it no longer is the case,” Blatter said at the ceremonial opening of FIFA’s congress. “There is danger.”
IOC President Jacques Rogge said the Olympics faced similar challenges a dozen years ago leading to the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, forcing drastic reform. Ten IOC members resigned or were expelled for accepting improper inducements.
“The IOC ultimately, however, emerged a stronger organization, and from within,” Rogge said. “I am sure that FIFA also can emerge stronger.”
The FIFA Congress began with a lavish ceremony for the delegates from around the globe, including a glitzy show headlined by scantily clad singer Grace Jones.
The English FA called for more time to allow “any alternative reforming candidate” to come forward to challenge Blatter, who has been president for 13 years and is seeking a final four-year term.
But Blatter’s election itself appeared in no danger. A threatened walkout of Asian members seemed unlikely to develop, as some supporters of Asian Football Confederation President bin Hammam said they wouldn’t walk out in protest.
Maldives voter Ali Azim said “we have to be more civilized than that” and Australian Chief Executive Ben Buckley said that “my sense is that everyone will be there.”
And despite being suspended along with bin Hammam, FIFA Vice President Jack Warner urged Caribbean soccer officials to continue backing Blatter.
On the eve of the election, Blatter also had to deal with two more leading sponsors criticizing FIFA’s inability to deal with pervasive corruption claims, and with his second-in-command under fire for saying Qatar had “bought” the 2022 World Cup.
England’s intervention took European soccer body UEFA by surprise, with President Michel Platini saying the FA did not bring it up at a meeting Monday.
“They did not ask” for support to postpone the election, Platini said. UEFA is expected to largely back Blatter in Wednesday’s election.
By Tammy Bruce
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