FIFA president Sepp Blatter is to resign in the wake of the corruption scandal that has engulfed the world governing body.
Speaking at a hastily arranged media conference in Zurich on Tuesday, the 79-year-old, who was elected for a fifth term last week, announced that an Extraordinary Congress will be held to appoint his successor.
Blatter confirmed that process will be completed “as rapidly as possible”, bringing to an end his 17-year spell in charge of the global game.
Last week, nine past and present FIFA officials were among 14 individuals indicted on charges of racketeering, conspiracy and corruption following a request by United States authorities.
Despite calls for a postponement, Friday’s elections went ahead as planned – with Blatter winning a ballot of FIFA’s 209 member associations, after rival Prince Ali Bin Hussein withdrew following the first round of voting.
Blatter is not among those directly implicated in the scandal and has not been accused by the authorities of any wrongdoing – with the Swiss attorney general confirming again on Tuesday he is not under investigation.
However, following intense public scrutiny and criticism of his leadership, he has now opted to stand down.
Addressing the media at FIFA headquarters, he said: “I have thoroughly considered my presidency and the last 40 years in my life, these years were closely related to FIFA and football.
“I only want to do the best for football. I decided to stand again [for the presidency] because I thought it was the best thing for football. The elections are closed but the challenges we are facing are not.
“FIFA needs profound restructuring.
“Although the members have re-elected me, this mandate does not seem to be supported by everyone in the world of football. The players, clubs supporters… those who inspire life in football.
“So, I will call an Extraordinary Congress to elect a new president. I will not stand, I am now free of the constraints of the election.
“I will now be in a position to enact reforms to follow on our initial efforts.
“For many years we have gone to great lengths [to reform FIFA] and these need to continue as they have not yet been sufficient.
“The interests of FIFA are very dear to me and that is why I have taken this decision [to resign].”
Blatter has emerged as one of sport’s most controversial figures since taking the reins of FIFA in 1998.
While he is revered by some – with Africa among the regions where his efforts to grow football have been widely applauded – others view him as hugely divisive influence.
UEFA president Michel Platini has been one of his fiercest critics, and in the wake of the corruption scandal the Frenchman led calls for Blatter to withdraw his nomination for last week’s presidential vote.
“l asked him to resign, [saying] ‘enough is enough, Sepp,'” Platini said at the time. “He listened to me, but he told me it is too late.”
Until Tuesday, Blatter had also been defiant in public, telling Swiss TV: “Why would I step down? That would mean I recognise that I did wrong.”
Blatter confirmed he will remain in charge of FIFA until the Extraordinary Congress is convened.
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