FIFA president Sepp Blatter, in end-of-year comments recalling his promises of nearly four years ago, has insisted that restoring public confidence in the world federation is high priority for him.
Back in May 2011, after a string of corruption scandals, Blatter said he intended to remain at the helm of FIFA to “steer the ship back into calmer waters.”
The last three years have hardly been calm, reaching a nadir last week with the angry resignation of American lawyer Michael Garcia as ethics investigator.
FIFA’s executive committee subsequently decided to publish his World Cup bid scandal report, albeit redacted and not until after all disciplinary issues have been resolved.
Blatter has already declared his willingness to stand next May for a fifth term as president after overwhelming acclamations of confidence encouragement from all the world’s six regional confederations with the exception of Europe (UEFA).
He has insisted that his “mission” – one of his favourite words – is not yet finished.
Sources close to FIFA have suggested that Blatter wishes to stay on as long as possible so as to distance himself, and perceptions of his legacy after 40 years at FIFA, from the scandals and controversies of the last years.
The only declared rival so far is French former diplomat Jerome Champagne who was ousted from FIFA in January 2010 after 11 years in senior roles within Blatter’s administration.
Other possible contenders, who have until January 29 to declare themselves, are Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein of Jordan who is Asia’s outgoing FIFA vice-president, and Harold Mayne-Nicholls, the former Chilean FA president who led the 2018-2022 World Cup technical inspection.
Blatter, setting out his ongoing aims in a video statement, said: “Public opinion is important because football is the greatest game in the world; connecting people, giving emotions, passion and hope in this world, so it’s very important for me personally at the helm of football to restore credibility.”
He regretted the confusion over the ethics process which had led to a public and damaging clash between Garcia and ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert.
Blatter added: “The biggest problem we are facing with the national associations and the confederation is the ethics committee. Sometimes people do not understand what it means to have an ethics committee.”
FIFA’s presidential election will take place at Congress next May. To win on first ballot a candidate need two-thirds of the eligible voters. A simple majority is sufficient in a second, run-off vote.