- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 1, 2011

ZURICH (AP) - Sepp Blatter was poised for re-election as FIFA president Wednesday, calling himself the “captain of the ship’” and promising to enact “radical” reforms to tackle the corruption scandals that have engulfed soccer’s governing body.

Blatter vowed to give more power to the 208 national federations at the expense of the 24-man executive committee by allowing them to pick the host of the World Cup in the future.

There remained little doubt that the Swiss executive would get a fourth four-year term, after the FIFA congress overwhelmingly rejected England’s call for a postponement of the election amid the swirl of ethics allegations.

“The FIFA ship is in troubled waters but this ship must be brought back on the right track,” Blatter said in an opening address. “I am the captain of the ship.”

“It is therefore my duty and responsibility to see to it that we get back on track.”

Blatter, who has been office since 1998, was the only candidate on the ballot and his re-election by acclamation was expected later in the day.

His sole challenger, Qatari executive committee member Mohamed bin Hammam, withdrew from the race last weekend and was suspended on allegations of bribing Caribbean voters.

Blatter said the worst scandal in the body’s history could be solved within FIFA and with him in charge.

“Reforms will be made and not just touchups but radical decisions,” Blatter said in his speech to the 208 delegations attending the congress.

Blatter promised to impose a system of zero-tolerance to fight corruption.

“Zero tolerance is for everybody,” Blatter said. “It is not only a wish of me. It is a will. I have to do it.”

Blatter was heeding the advice of IOC President Jacques Rogge, who told him on the eve of the election that only drastic measures to improve democracy and transparency had saved the Olympic movement when it faced a similar corruption scandal in the run-up to the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

“We have made mistakes, but we will draw our conclusions,” Blatter said.

Blatter said he would work to make sure the World Cup would in the future be picked in a vote by all federations instead of the two dozen executive committee members, several of whom have been involved in bribery scandals.

England’s FA chairman David Bernstein called for a postponement of the election for several months to allow for the corruption scandals to be cleared up, saying that “a coronation without an opponent provides a flawed mandate.”

However, 172 of the 208 delegations rejected England’s call.

“We have been hit and I personally have been slapped,” Blatter said of the criticism and allegations facing FIFA and himself. “I don’t want that ever again.”

To reform, Blatter promised a more democratic outlook with more power flooding down the institutional pyramid to the national federations. The selection of the World Cup is a vital issue since it is by far FIFA’s most important source of income.

“We must stop once and for all, all these ugly criticisms, allegations, insinuations of cheating left, right and center,” he said.

Bin Hammam and FIFA vice president Jack Warner were suspended pending the conclusion of a probe into allegations that Caribbean soccer leaders were paid $40,000 each to back Bin Hammam’s presidential bid.

Germany, a founding member of FIFA, called for a review of the December vote that gave Qatar the 2022 World Cup in order to scrutinize corruption allegations.


AP Sports writers Rob Harris and Graham Dunbar in Zurich and Nesha Starcevic in Frankfurt contributed to this report.

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