FIFA president Sepp Blatter has welcomed investigations launched into allegations of corruption in world football, following a day in which the governing body was thrown into crisis.
On Wednesday, 14 people – including nine FIFA officials – were indicted on charges of racketeering, conspiracy and corruption by Switzerland’s Federal Office of Justice, following a request by United States authorities.
Seven of those charged were arrested in Zurich earlier in the day.
They were later named as FIFA vice-presidents Jeffrey Webb and Eugenio Figueredo, along with executive committee member Eduardo Li, development officer Julio Rocha, attache to the CONCACAF president Costas Takkas, CONMEBOL executive committee member Rafael Esquivel and FIFA organising committee member Jose Maria Marin.
Former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner and ex-executive committee member Nicolas Leoz complete the line-up of indicted FIFA officials.
The fallout to Wednesday’s proceedings has been swift, and widespread, with UEFA calling for Friday’s FIFA presidential elections to be postponed.
Blatter – who will seek re-election for a fifth term in that vote, and is not among those accused by the authorities of any wrongdoing – issued a statement vowing that FIFA would do everything in its power to root out corruption within the game.
He also confirmed that 11 individuals had already been provisionally banned from carrying out any football-related activity.
“This is a difficult time for football, the fans and for FIFA as an organisation,” read the statement. “We understand the disappointment that many have expressed and I know that the events of today will impact the way in which many people view us.
“As unfortunate as these events are, it should be clear that we welcome the actions and the investigations by the US and Swiss authorities and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football.
“While there will be many who are frustrated with the pace of change, I would like to stress the actions that we have taken and will continue to take. In fact, today’s action by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General was set in motion when we submitted a dossier to the Swiss authorities late last year.
“Let me be clear: such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game. Following the events of today, the independent Ethics Committee – which is in the midst of its own proceedings regarding the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups – took swift action to provisionally ban those individuals named by the authorities from any football-related activities at the national and international level.
“These actions are on top of similar steps that FIFA has taken over the past year to exclude any members who violate our own Code of Ethics.
“We will continue to work with the relevant authorities and we will work vigorously within FIFA in order to root out any misconduct, to regain your trust and ensure that football worldwide is free from wrongdoing.”
FIFA PROBE – HOW THE DAY UNFOLDED:
– Early on Wednesday morning, FIFA officials and those from sub-organisations are arrested following a United States Department of Justice (USDoJ) request, with Swiss authorities confirming the charges relate to corruption allegations.
– A total of 14 people are indicted, including nine FIFA officials, seven of whom have been arrested.
– Those arrested are alleged to have solicited and received bribes totalling in excess of $100million between the early 1990s and the present day.
– FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali bin Al Hussein calls it a “sad day for football” and demands drastic changes in the way the governing body is run.
– Swiss prosecutors open separate criminal proceedings against “persons unknown” in relation to alleged money laundering with regard to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, with FIFA described as the “injured party”.
– At a hastily arranged press conference, FIFA explain they are “very happy” with the arrests and for the investigations to take place, while confirming president Sepp Blatter and vice-president Jerome Valcke are not involved in the probe.
– Director of communications Walter de Gregorio adds that the hosting of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups will not be affected and that Friday’s presidential elections will go ahead as planned.
– US Department of Justice (USDoJ) names the indicted FIFA officials, who include Jack Warner and CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb.
– Ex FIFA vice-president Warner pleads his innocence, saying: “I reiterate that I am innocent of any charges. The actions of FIFA no longer concern me. I have been afforded no due process and I have not even been questioned in this matter.”
– The “majority” of the football officials arrested on Wednesday contest extradition to the United States, it is announced, leaving Switzerland’s Federal Office for Justice awaiting formal requests within 40 days before proceedings can be resumed.
– European football’s governing body UEFA calls for Friday’s elections to be postponed, and expresses concern that corruption is “deeply rooted in FIFA’s culture”.
– FIFA bans 11 individuals from carrying out any football-related activities, a move welcomed by Blatter.
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