FIFA votes amid corruption crisis: LIVE REPORT

17:34 GMT – AFP IS NOW CLOSING ITS LIVE REPORT on FIFA’s presidential election after a tense vote ushered in a fifth term for Sepp Blatter, despite a series of scandals and accusations of corruption under his 17-year watch.

Here is a brief summary of the drama:

– The vote came at the end of a gruelling week for the long-serving FIFA president. Seven top football officials were arrested and Swiss police raided FIFA headquarters on Wednesday as part of an inquiry into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

– The arrests emboldened Blatter’s growing number of critics, including the head of Europe’s football associations Michel Platini, British Prime Minister David Cameron and several football personalities, to call for his resignation.

– But Blatter remained popular among African, Asian and South American football confederations, who are believed to have backed him in the secret presidential ballot against Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al-Hussein. Voting went to a second round, but Prince Ali withdrew from the race, leaving Blatter to claim victory.


17:33 GMT – Unhappy English – The head of the English Football Association, Greg Dyke, does not think Blatter will last the next four years as president.

“This is not over by any means,” he says. “To quote the (US) attorney general ‘this is the beginning of the process, not the end’.

“The idea Blatter could reform FIFA is suspect. I’d be very surprised if he was still in this job in two years’ time.”

17:33 GMT – ‘Depressing’ – Former England captain and TV presenter Gary Lineker also expressed disappointment over Blatter’s win.

“As predictable as it is depressing. All those FIFA members that voted for Blatter have betrayed the game they are supposed to cherish,” he tweets.

17:32 GMT – ‘Football has lost’ – Luis Figo, a former Portugal international and, until he withdrew last week, a contender for the FIFA presidency, laments Blatter’s win.

“Today, FIFA has lost, but above everything, football has lost and everyone who truly cares about it has lost too,” he tweets.

On Facebook he says: “There’s no way someone can lead FIFA ignoring the most elementary rules of transparency, legality and democracy. These rules were not reunited as I denounced and, later, as I found out.”

17:32 GMT – Platini congratulates Ali – “I am proud that UEFA has defended and supported a movement for change at FIFA, change which in my opinion is crucial if this organisation is to regain its credibility,” UEFA boss Platini says after the vote.

“I congratulate my friend Prince Ali for his admirable campaign and I take the opportunity to thank all the national associations who supported him,” he adds.


17:27 GMT – A joke? – Former French international footballer David Ginola tells Britain’s ITV News:

“It looks to me we are watching a very bad reality TV show. I was listening to his speech just after the election…. People have been arrested, there is an FBI investigation towards FIFA. I mean I don’t know what we’re talking about. I saw people standing in the audience applauding! Is it a joke?”

– Reaction –

17:21 GMT – Next congress – Just before going, Blatter announces the next FIFA congress will be held in Mexico City on May 12 and 13, 2016.

17:15 GMT – Kissing Blatter – FIFA congress delegates line up to kiss, hug or have a photo taken with Blatter.

17:12 GMT – Platini’s next move? – UEFA boss Michel Platini had on Thursday urged Blatter to resign amid mounting outrage over claims of corruption at FIFA.

After Blatter’s win, however, a grinning Platini appeared to congratulate Blatter fulsomely.

17:09 GMT – Last term? – Blatter indicates this will be his last term, saying that at the end of his time, he wants to hand FIFA over to a successor in better shape.

17:09 GMT – Let’s go FIFA! – Blatter closes his victory address with “Let’s go FIFA! Together we go! Together we go!”.

Many delegates give a standing ovation, as Blatter walks off-stage to greet various officials.

17:09 GMT – World Cup – Blatter says that whatever changes he will bring to FIFA, “don’t touch the World Cup”.

17:09 GMT – ‘Not perfect’ – “I’m not perfect, nobody is perfect,” says Blatter.

17:09 GMT – Blatter touts change – “We will bring it offshore, we will bring it back to the beach,” Blatter says of world football.

“But we have to work on that, we have also to work on other things that we have to do for FIFA for future,” Blatter says in English.

He says “organisational problems” need to be fixed in FIFA, including the number of members in various FIFA confederations.

17:09 GMT – Blatter thanks Ali – Blatter opens his winning address by thanking Prince Ali.

“He has obtained a very good result, and he in such a situation, easy, he could have said, ‘no, let’s go further, perhaps I would receive more votes’.”

17:08 GMT – Applause – Applause around the auditorium as Prince Ali concedes defeat before a second ballot for the FIFA presidency.

Blatter, 79, wins a fifth term as head of FIFA.

– Blatter wins again –

17:08 GMT – Invalid – Out of the 209 returned ballots, three were invalid. Seems strange in a two-horse race.

17:05 GMT – Seven votes – Blatter fell seven votes short of the required majority.

Blatter, seeking a fifth term, got 133 votes in the first round, with 140 needed for a two-thirds majority.

The winner needs a simple majority of the 209 member body in the second round.

16:58 GMT – Re-vote – Prince Ali got 73 votes for the FIFA presidency in the first round. Blatter received 133. His future hangs on one, final vote.

– Second round –

16:57 GMT – Applause – Clapping in the hall. Here we go again. Now a simple majority will be enough.


16:48 GMT – Tension – Strangely riveting this, as the blue papers go from hand to hand. Must be close now. Surely.

16:43 GMT – Anticipation builds – As the counting progresses, more delegates are walking over to the open space in the auditorium in front of the counting table.

16:42 GMT – Platini – UEFA president Michel Platini is impassive, checking his mobile phone.

16:37 GMT – Delegates – The delegates look on from their seats, some taking pictures. They won’t be riveting.

The auditorium is a huge space, with national flags hanging from the ceiling. The FIFA top brass sit on a raised platform at the front, overlooking the all-important counters.

16:33 GMT – Scrutiny – Five FIFA officials sit at a table to count the votes, written on small slips of blue paper, by hand.

Three officials sit at each side of the table to watch, presumably to guard against fraud.

– Counting –

16:10 GMT – Egypt for Ali – Egypt has broken ranks with the FIFA’s African voting bloc and said it would vote for Prince Ali, according to the state MENA news agency.

16:10 GMT – Exasperation – FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke sounds a little exasperated coralling FIFA members into the voting booths:

“UAE, United Arab Emirates, be ready for number two… UAE, number two. UAE? UAE? UAE number two.”

16:10 GMT – Zimbabwe – “Yearning for Zimbabwe,” tweets the Guardian’s Barney Ronay as the voting drags on.

16:07 GMT – Race dropouts – Former Portugal captain Luis Figo and former Ajax chairman, Dutchman Michael van Praag, pulled out of the race for the FIFA presidency earlier this month.

“I do not fear the ballot box, but I will not go along with nor will I give my consent to a process which will end on May 29 and from which soccer will not emerge the winner,” Figo wrote on his Facebook page at the time.

– Pull-outs –

16:05 GMT – Music – Elevator-type music continues to fill the auditorium as the delegates troop up to vote. We’re up to Scotland. Not long to go now.

15:36 GMT – 70 – the golden number – Blatter’s only challenger, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, needs at least 70 votes to push voting to a second round.

Of the voting blocs, only the 53-member European grouping has come out for Ali, although Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada have said they would vote for him too.

15:35 GMT – Voting blocs – The FIFA voting blocs:

Europe – 53 votes

North and Central America and Caribbean – 35 votes

Africa – 54 votes

Asia – 46 votes

South America – 10 votes

Oceania – 11 votes

15:35 GMT – Voting booths – Quite a quirky system this. Delegates milling around the huge hall, slowly filing into the voting boths at the front. Not riveting as FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke calls the delegates forward one by one. Now we’re onto ‘H’ with Honduras.

15:34 GMT – Alphabetical order – We’re up the the Gs now. Gambia and Gabon. Next it’s Germany and Georgia. Still some time to go yet!

15:21 GMT – How voting works – A quick reminder on how voting works: Blatter needs a two-thirds majority among the 209 members of FIFA to win in the first round.

Votes are cast with groups of FIFA members expected to vote in blocs.

If it goes to a second round, a simple majority will do.

15:20 GMT – Appeal – More from the Daily Telegraph football correspondent Henry Winter.

“Prince Ali read from his speech too much. Blatter appealed straight to #fifa voters; his rhetoric was shameless nonsense but well-delivered,” he tweets.

– Rhetoric –

15:07 GMT – Voting critics – While many small and developing nations laud Blatter for giving them more clout within FIFA, others say the way the president is elected and World Cup hosts chosen is prone to abuse.

Each of FIFA’s 209 members are allocated one vote, with tiny Cape Verde — with a population of 500,000 — having as much electoral clout within FIFA as India, with a population of 1.2 billion.

Critics say this encourages a system of patronage and the trading of votes for cash, accusations that have dogged FIFA for years.

14:48 GMT – Balloting begins – FIFA congress delegates begin to mark their ballots for the next president.

14:48 GMT – Knowing Blatter – “You know me already. You know who you’re dealing with. And I know I can count on you,” Blatter tells FIFA congress members before they vote for the next FIFA president.

“I would like to stay with you, I would like to continue with you.”

14:48 GMT – Pre-vote plea – Blatter peppers his pre-vote plea for support with well-worn tropes on FIFA’s role of bringing people together and football’s ability to bring “hope” as well as “provide emotions”.

“We need to recover our good name, and we’ll start tomorrow morning,” he says.

14:47 GMT – Change promised – “We will change things in the future starting tomorrow,” promises Blatter, speaking through an English interpreter.

The FIFA chief suggests “a department for professional football” within FIFA, which will have representatives from clubs and leagues. He does not outline what the purpose of the department would be.

14:47 GMT – Evolution vs revolution – Speaking ahead of voting for FIFA president, Blatter calls for evolution, rather than revolution at FIFA, indicating he is unlikely to instigate sweeping reforms.



– Voting –

14:38 GMT – Beckenbauer defends Blatter – German football legend Franz Beckenbauer says the scandal engulfing world football’s governing body is less about Blatter and more about a system that is difficult to change.

“It’s not the man himself (who is to blame),” said Beckenbauer, who won the World Cup as a player and a coach.

“Theo Zwanziger (ex-president of the German football federation) once said something clever: ‘It’s not the person but the system’. It’s very difficult to change the system,” insists the honorary president of Bayern Munich.

14:28 GMT – Vote bloc – Blatter is expected to win the vast majority of Africa’s 54 votes.

The president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Issa Hayatou in April affirmed Africa’s support for Blatter.

“Dear Sepp, Africa is comfortable having you, she stays with you!” Hayatou said.

14:23 GMT – Africa – Blatter has strong support from Africa, a major voting bloc at the FIFA congress, for his bid for a fifth four-year term as FIFA president.

Despite a scandal-plagued tenure, African nations credit Blatter with pouring resources into football on the continent and shifting FIFA’s centre of gravity away from Europe and towards developing nations.

It was under Blatter’s watch that the first World Cup was held on African soil, in South Africa in 2010.

13:37 GMT – Asia, Africa back Blatter – Blatter has solid support from the key African and Asian confederations which account for 100 votes among the 209 member federations.

UEFA boss Platini has said a “very large majority” of the 53 European federations will back Prince Ali.

Blatter needs a two-thirds majority to win in the first round. If it goes to a second round, a simple majority will do.

– Blatter’s supporters –

13:34 GMT – Palestine-Israel handshake – The Palestine and Israel FA presidents have shaken hands at the FIFA congress, in an apparent reconciliation after the Palestinians lobbied to get Israel booted outed of FIFA.

What got the Palestinians to change their minds and make up with the Israelis is still unclear.

13:28 GMT – Item 17 – Everyone is still waiting for the Fifa congress to reach item 17, which deals with the election of the next president. According to media reports, they’re currently on item 15, and a vote could happen at around 1500 GMT.

13:15 GMT – “Absurd situation” – Israel says it is pleased to have avoided an “absurd situation” after the Palestinians withdrew their bid to have FIFA expel the Jewish state.


12:01 GMT – Blatter still favourite – Betting firms are tipping Blatter as the hot favourite to win today’s election for the FIFA presidency, with two bookmakers giving him odds of 1/8, compared to 9/2 for his challenger Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein.

12:01 GMT – #BlatterOut – Former England striker and TV presenter Gary Lineker adds his voice to an online chorus calling for Blatter’s resignation, some using the hashtag #BlatterOut

“FIFA members should vote for the good of football, and get rid of a man who’s reigned over a corrupt organisation for too long. ,” Lineker tweeted.

12:00 GMT – Congress – The FIFA congress is resuming after the all-clear was given following a bomb alert.

11:59 GMT – All-clear – Police and FIFA security personnel searched the congress room after the bomb alert but the all-clear was soon given, confirms FIFA’s general secretary Jerome Valcke.

“An anonymous threat was received against FIFA and after an evaluation, the premises were searched and the all-clear has been given,” he says.

11:58 GMT – ‘He should go’ – British Prime Minister David Cameron is urging Blatter to resign in the interest of rooting out corruption in world football.

“Yes, in my view he should go,” he said when asked about Blatter’s future at FIFA after talks in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“You cannot have accusations of corruption at this level and on this scale in this organisation and pretend that the person currently leading it is the right person to take it forward. That cannot be the case.”


11:44 GMT – UK fraud office – The UK’s Serious Fraud Office says it is actively assessing “material in its possession” relating to Fifa corruption allegations, the BBC reports.

11:41 GMT – Secret ballot – The FIFA president will be elected by secret ballot for a period of four years.

The electoral body is composed of the 209 federation members.

For a win in the first round of voting, a candidate must secure two-thirds of the votes of eligible voting members present.

11:32 GMT – Venue reopens – AFP’s Ryland James says there has been an announcement to say the Hallenstadion is open again and “could we please take our seats”. The venue is slowly filling up again.

11:28 GMT – Police – Zurich police spokeswoman Brigitte Vogt confirms to AFP that a bomb alert has been received at the venue hosting the FIFA congress.

“The police are there,” she says, refusing to provide further details.

11:24 GMT – Sniffer dogs – There are reports the Hallenstadion in Zurich is being searched by sniffer dogs, says AFP’s Ryland James.

The congress was on a lunch break when the news broke.

Police spokesman Rene Ruf confirmed to SID, an AFP subsidiary, that they have received the threat.


11:08 GMT – Bomb alert – Officials say there is a bomb alert in the Zurich congress hall where the FIFA meeting is being held, reports AFP’s Tim Witcher.

FIFA leaders are at lunch, police are investigating.

– Security alert –

10:30 GMT – Background – Ali graduated from Salisbury School in Connecticut, United States, in 1993 where he excelled at sports including wrestling and then joined Britain’s prestigious Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.

He was awarded the Brunei Medal for Excellence and was commissioned as an officer in December 1994 while still a teenager.

The prince has won several foreign decorations, including a British knighthood, the French Legion d’honneur and Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun.

10:27 GMT – Challenger – As a former wrestler and army officer, Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al-Hussein — the son of the late King Hussein of Jordan — is the figure bidding to pry control of FIFA from Blatter.

Prince Ali has been vice president of FIFA in Asia since 2011 and says Blatter must be denied a fifth term in charge.

“We cannot continue with the crisis in FIFA,” said the prince in a statement after seven top officials were arrested as part of a US investigation into corruption within FIFA on Wednesday.

“FIFA needs leadership that governs, guides and protects our national associations.

– Prince Ali –

10:12 GMT – Tight security – AFP reporter Ryland James says security is tight in Zurich, especially after two pro-Palestinian protesters got in and held things up for a few minutes.

Blatter asked for security staff to be more vigilant and it was a few moments before those nearest to the two women reacted, he says.

10:10 GMT – Qatar – Organisers of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup insist their controversial bid was conducted “with integrity and to the highest ethical standards”.

A statement from Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which oversees the planning of the World Cup in the Gulf state, also read: “We wish to reiterate that we have fully complied with every investigation that has been initiated concerning the 2018/2022 bidding process and we will continue to do so.”

It is the first official statement by Qatar since the arrests of seven FIFA officials earlier this week and the launching of an investigation into the bidding process of the 2018/2022 tournaments.

– Qatar defence –

10:02 GMT – Lunch break – AFP’s Tim Witcher reports from Zurich that the delegates have stopped for a 90-minute lunch break.

09:52 GMT – ‘Worst speech’ – Oliver Kay, chief football correspondent for The Times newspaper, describes Blatter’s speech as “possibly the worst speech I’ve ever heard”.

“22 mins of deluded, rambling, irrelevant, self-serving Blatter blather,” he tweets.

09:47 GMT – Boycott? – Discussing a possible boycott of the World Cup in Russia in 2018, Dyke says: “What there is no point is one or two countries saying we’re not going to take part because they would carry on with the tournament without them and I think that’s pretty unfair on the fans.

“But if UEFA as a group said ‘unless we get this sorted we’re not going to be in the World Cup’ then I think that we would join them.”

09:46 GMT – English FA – English FA chairman Greg Dyke, speaking on BBC radio, says Blatter is still favourite to win election but the landscape has changed.

“I think the odds are still on him winning but they’re nowhere near where they were. There’s certainly been a shift during this week,” he says.

“I think it’s all over for Blatter anyway. I don’t think it matters if he wins or not. I hope he doesn’t win but if he does I think the events of this week have turned him into a diminished figure and I can’t see him lasting more than a year or two.”

09:42 GMT – Survivor – Despite the growing crisis, Blatter has survived scandal before and looks set for a fifth term in Friday’s vote, backed by African and Asian allies, despite the criminal investigations under way in the United States and Switzerland.

UEFA chief Michel Platini says a “very large majority” of the 53 voting European federations would back Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, the FIFA vice president who is the only challenger to Blatter.

09:41 GMT – Commercial – The commercial fallout from the corruption saga is growing, with South Korea’s Hyundai Motor, a major sponsor of FIFA, saying it is “extremely concerned” after this week’s arrests and start of criminal probes implicating the football body.

Credit card giant Visa has threatened to “reassess” its sponsorship if FIFA does not clean up its act. Coca-Cola, Adidas, McDonald’s and Budweiser have also spoken out, while the United Nations says it is reviewing its cooperation accords with FIFA.

– Fallout –

09:40 GMT – Custody – The seven arrested football officials — including FIFA vice presidents Jeffrey Webb and Eugenio Figueredo — remained in custody on Thursday. Six have indicated they will fight extradition to the United States, Swiss authorities said.

The CONCACAF confederation for North and Central America and the Caribbean said it had provisionally dismissed Webb as its president.

09:28 GMT – Timing – Blatter suggests the arrests in Switzerland may have been timed to have an impact on the congress.

“I am not going use the word ‘coincidence’, but I will use a small question mark over the timing,” he added.

Allegations of corruption have blighted FIFA since they awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals to Russia and Qatar respectively.

“If two other countries had emerged from the envelopes we wouldn’t have had these problems, but we can’t go back in time,” Blatter laments.

– ‘Coincidence’ –

09:27 GMT – ‘Trust’ – Blatter tells the FIFA delegates: “It’s a matter of trust, commitment and having the will to do it.

“Let’s go for it — let’s do this immediately.”

“The guilty ones are individuals, not the whole organisation,” insists the 79-year-old Blatter, who is bidding for a fifth term as FIFA president with the vote to take place later on Friday.

09:25 GMT – ‘Shameless’ – Henry Winter, the football correspondent of Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper lambasts FIFA on Twitter.

“Shameless Congress: choreographed messages and pictures about how wonderful #fifa is. Up to Prince Ali at Congress to expose the rotten core.”

09:24 GMT – Israel vote – Palestine, which has been a member of FIFA since 1998, opposes the participation in the Israeli championships of five clubs located in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The scheduled vote needs a two-thirds majority of the 209 members to succeed and even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has got involved.

The Palestinian initiative “is very serious and we will oppose them with all possible force”, he told Israeli reporters Thursday afternoon having recently met with the FIFA president.

09:22 GMT – Interruption – Pro-Palestinian protesters briefly interrupted the congress with delegates set to vote later on whether to expel Israel from the organisation.

The two female protesters halted president Sepp Blatter’s opening address, waving red cards at FIFA representatives and chanting ‘Israel out!” before being escorted out of the hall by security guards.

Palestine, which has been a FIFA member since 1998, wants the governing body to expel Israel over its restrictions on the movement of Palestinian players.

– Protest –

09:20 GMT – ‘Fix FIFA’ – Blatter tells members of world football’s governing body they must help “fix FIFA right now”.

“Join us in putting FIFA back on the right track where the boats will stop rocking and go calmly into port.”

09:18 GMT – Speech – Blatter opened the FIFA congress with an appeal for unity.

He told delegates that the arrest of seven top officials in Zurich on Wednesday had unleashed a “storm”, but added: “Today I appeal for a team spirit, unity, so we can advance together. It may not be easy but that is why we are here today.”

09:15 GMT – Call to resign – British Prime Minister David Cameron has backed calls for Blatter to resign, while French President Francois Hollande said sports groups selecting the hosts of major events must be “irreproachable”.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that if world football can’t clear up “poisonous” corruption, government agencies would be forced to step in.

09:14 GMT – Arrests – Today’s vote comes at the end of a gruelling week for the long-serving FIFA president.

Seven top football officials were arrested and Swiss police raided FIFA headquarters on Wednesday as part of an inquiry into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

Those arrested in Zurich were among 14 people accused in a US federal indictment of taking more than $150 million in bribes.

09:05 GMT – WELCOME TO AFP’S LIVE REPORT on the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, where president Sepp Blatter heads into a dramatic re-election vote calling for unity as a corruption crisis swirls around football’s world governing body.

Blatter is favourite to win having defiantly rejected calls by UEFA chief Michel Platini to stand down. His only challenger is Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.


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