Joseph S. Blatter, commonly known as Sepp Blatter[a] (born 10 March 1936) is a Swiss football administrator who serves as the eighth and current president of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association).
He was first elected President of FIFA on 8 June 1998 at the 51st FIFA Congress, succeeding João Havelange who had held the presidency since 1974. He was re-elected as president in 2002, 2007, 2011, and 2015. Prior to his presidency, Blatter had been a public relations executive at various organizations including the Swiss watch manufacturer Longines, and had served as the general secretary of FIFA since 1981.
Like his presidential predecessor Havelange, Blatter has sought to increase the influence of African and Asian countries in world football through the expansion of participating teams in various FIFA tournaments, yet has persistently been dogged by claims of corruption and financial mismanagement. Blatter's reign has overseen a vast expansion in revenues generated by the FIFA World Cup accompanied by the collapse of the marketing company International Sport and Leisure and numerous allegations of corruption in the bidding processes for the awarding of FIFA tournaments.
- 1 Early life and career
- 2 FIFA
- 2.1 1998 election
- 2.2 2006 FIFA World Cup
- 2.3 Foreign 'over-representation' on club teams
- 2.4 World Cup's chosen sites
- 2.5 Technological assistance
- 2.6 2011 FIFA presidential election
- 2.7 Allegations of financial mismanagement
- 2.8 Awarding of 2018 and 2022 World Cup
- 2.9 2013 FIFA Ethics Committee investigation
- 2.10 2015 FIFA presidential election
- 3 Honours
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Early life and career
Blatter was born in Visp, Canton Valais, Switzerland. He studied in Saint-Maurice, Switzerland, before getting a degree in business and economics from the University of Lausanne in 1959. Blatter has had a long and varied career, including posts such as Head of Public Relations of the Valaisan Tourist Board in his native Switzerland, as well as general secretary of the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation. He was Director of Sports Timing and Relations of Longines S.A., and was involved in the organization of the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games.
Blatter has been married three times and has one daughter.
Since 1975, Blatter has been working at FIFA, first as technical director (1975–1981), then general secretary (1981–1998), before his election as FIFA president in 1998. He was re-elected as head of FIFA in 2002, and was re-elected unopposed for another four years on 31 May 2007, even though only 66 of 207 FIFA members nominated him.
Despite winning four terms as President, Blatter and FIFA have often been dogged by controversy and allegations of corruption. His tenure has seen controversy over allegations of financial mismanagement and the acceptance of bribes resulting in Qatar's successful 2022 World Cup bid. Blatter has attracted criticism from the media, senior football figures and players, due to controversial statements. These include the claim that Latin American countries would applaud John Terry for having an extramarital affair, and that on-field racism could be corrected with a handshake, among others. He also drew criticism at the 2014 FIFA World Cup seeding, when he interrupted a "one minute silence" for former South-African president Nelson Mandela, who died the day before, after eleven seconds. Michael van Praag, the chairman of the Royal Dutch Football Association, called his behavior "preposterous" and expressed the hope Blatter would not be reelected in 2015.
Blatter has been publicly heckled, at the World Cup in Seoul and the Confederations Cup in Frankfurt, both in 2006, in his home town of Visp in 2011, at the 2012 Women's Olympic Football Final Medal Ceremony, and at the opening of Confederations Cup match in 2013. In order to avoid protest, no speeches were given at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Sepp Blatter's 1998 election to the presidency of FIFA over UEFA President Lennart Johansson occurred amidst much controversy. Blatter's 2002 candidacy has been marked with rumours of financial irregularities and backroom dealings, culminating with direct accusations of bribery, by a third party, made in the British press by Farra Ado, vice-president of the Confederation of African Football and president of the Somali Football Federation, who claimed to have been offered $100,000 to vote for Blatter in 1998.
2006 FIFA World Cup
In the 2006 FIFA World Cup, after a controversial second-round match between Portugal and the Netherlands, which saw referee Valentin Ivanov issue a record 16 yellow cards and four red cards, Blatter was said to have lambasted the officiating referee, and said that Ivanov should have given himself a yellow card for his poor performance as a referee. He later claimed to regret his words and promised to officially apologise to Ivanov. However, this apology was never given, and the referee was removed from further officiating.
Foreign 'over-representation' on club teams
Blatter appeared to incur much criticism during 2007 and 2008 for his apparent persistence in attempting to change European Union employment law regarding the number of foreign players football clubs can field at any one time. His plans are to set a restriction to five foreign players and having six players from the said team's own nationality. Blatter believes this would help the countries' national sides by having more national players playing in their leagues. Blatter has often referred to the English Premier League as one of the major problems in football and uses it as an example, due to the influence of foreign players, coaches and owners in the top teams.
World Cup's chosen sites
It was reported that Blatter had "cut an unofficial deal with UEFA head Michel Platini" to ensure Europe would receive the 2018 World Cup, such that if the non-European bids did not withdraw from 2018 "they will find themselves frozen out and not given any backing by the FIFA High Command, damaging their chances of being serious contenders for the second tournament."
Eleven bids were submitted in March 2009 covering 13 nations. Mexico and Indonesia withdrew. Five of the remaining nine bids—South Korea, Qatar, Japan, Australia and the United States—were only for the 2022 World Cup, while all the others were bidding for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. However, since all of the bids for the 2018 World Cup were from European nations, and FIFA's rules dictate that countries belonging to confederations that hosted either of the two preceding tournaments are not eligible to host, the bids of England, Russia, Netherlands/Belgium and Spain/Portugal were forced to be for 2018 only.
The criticism attracted by Blatter's refusal to allow goal-line technology or video replays intensified following the controversial Lampard disallowed goal in the match between England and Germany on 27 June 2010. Two days later, Blatter stated that he deplored the "evident referee mistakes" in the England v Germany and Mexico v Argentina matches, and apologised to the English Football Association and the Mexican Football Federation (the two organizations directly concerned by the referees' mistakes), acknowledging that Lampard had indeed scored against Germany and that Tévez's goal against Mexico had been scored from an offside position. He added: "It is obvious that after the experiences so far at this World Cup it would be a nonsense not to re-open the file on goal-line technology. […] We will come out with a new model in November on how to improve high level referees. […] I cannot disclose more of what we are doing but something has to be changed."
2011 FIFA presidential election
In 2011, elections were scheduled for the FIFA presidency, in which Blatter was again the incumbent candidate, running for a fourth consecutive term. The ChangeFIFA organisation, on 29 March 2011, endorsed former Chilean defender and for three years running South American Footballer of the Year Elías Figueroa as candidate for the presidency, urging national federations to nominate him, but, subsequently, Figueroa decided not to accept the nomination, stating that "in such a short period of time" he could not develop a case "worthy of the magnitude and importance of such a distinguished job"
The vote took place at the 61st FIFA Congress in Zurich. The only other candidate, Mohammed bin Hammam of Qatar, withdrew from the presidential race on 28 May, just before the vote. Bin Hammam had supported Blatter's 1998 and 2002 presidential campaigns, but admitted that he had fallen out with Blatter over issues within the FIFA Executive Committee. The FIFA ethics committee that investigated bribery claims against Bin Hammam and CONCACAF head Jack Warner announced that Blatter will not face an investigation into claims that he knew of the bribery and did nothing about it, due to a lack of evidence.
Blatter criticised the International Olympic Committee (IOC), stating FIFA manage their finances "like a housewife", after the IOC announced it would look into allegations of corruption against Issa Hayatou, president of the Confederation of African Football.
There being no other nominations, Blatter ran unopposed in the ensuing presidential election and was re-elected for a fourth term, with 186 of the 203 votes cast. In his campaign, Blatter had stipulated that, if re-elected in 2011, he would not run again for president. Blatter received criticism for not postponing his 2011 election in which his term as FIFA President was extended through 2015, despite the fact that all other candidates for the role had been suspended or withdrew.
Allegations of financial mismanagement
Amidst internal divisions, FIFA's secretary-general Blatter's deputy and former protégé Michel Zen-Ruffinen drew up a 30-page dossier outlining allegations of financial mismanagement within the organisation. The dossier alleged that the collapse of FIFA's marketing partner ISL had led to losses of up to $100m under Blatter's management. The allegations were backed by Johansson, and the dossier was handed to the Swiss authorities, but they cleared Blatter of any wrongdoing and FIFA had to pay all the costs. An internal investigation within FIFA was halted by Blatter because members of it broke confidentiality agreements. This questionable behaviour led him to remove Zen-Ruffinen from office immediately before the FIFA World Cup 2002.
In April 2012 the Council of Europe published a report which stated it would be "difficult to imagine" that Blatter would have been unaware of "significant sums" paid to unnamed FIFA officials by ISSM/ISL in connection with lucrative contracts for World Cup television rights and the subsequent bankruptcy and collapse of ISL in 2001. The Council of Europe report will be considered by over 300 parliamentarians from the 47 Council of Europe member states in Strasbourg.
Awarding of 2018 and 2022 World Cup
Controversy came in the British press when Russia was awarded the 2018 event, with England receiving just two of their "promised" votes; this controversy was dismissed by Blatter as the English showing themselves to be "bad losers". The awarding of the 2022 games to Qatar was also controversial. The illegality of homosexuality in the nation caused Blatter to joke that "I would say they [gay fans] should refrain from any sexual activities", which brought criticism from retired basketball player John Amaechi and gay rights groups.
2013 FIFA Ethics Committee investigation
On 29 April 2013, FIFA's Ethics Committee concluded its investigation into allegations of illegal payments to FIFA officials from the organisation's former marketing partner International Sports and Leisure (ISL), which went bankrupt in 2001, and published its report. FIFA president Sepp Blatter was cleared of any misconduct, but his predecessor, Brazilian João Havelange, resigned as FIFA's honorary president over his part in the scandal, since Havelange along with former FIFA Executive Committee members Ricardo Teixeira and Dr. Nicolas Leoz were found to have accepted illegal payments between 1992 and May 2000. A week before FIFA's ethics committee announced its findings, 84-year-old Leoz had resigned from his post as president of the South American Football Confederation, citing "health reasons."
Blatter, in a statement, "note[d] with satisfaction" that the report "confirms that 'President Blatter's conduct could not be classified in any way as misconduct with regard to any ethics rules'." He added he has "no doubt that FIFA, thanks to the governance reform process that [Blatter] proposed now has the mechanisms and means to ensure that such an issue does not happen again", though admitting that the scandal "has caused untold damage to the reputation of [FIFA]."
2015 FIFA presidential election
In 2015, elections were scheduled for the FIFA presidency, in which Blatter was again the incumbent candidate, running for a fifth consecutive term. Prince Ali bin Hussein was his opponent in the election.
The vote took place at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich. Neither party received the necessary two thirds majority of votes from the first round with Blatter receiving 133 to Prince Ali's 73. According to FIFA rules, a second round should have been held for the two candidates, with a simple majority being sufficient for victory. However, before the second round of voting commenced Prince Ali announced his withdrawal, handing Blatter victory by default.
Blatter has been the recipient of numerous awards, medals, honorary degrees and citizenships from nation states, sport governing bodies, special interest groups, and universities and cities.
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|40x40px||Wikimedia Commons has media related to Joseph "Sepp" Blatter.|
- FIFA President's page on official website of FIFA
- Excerpt from 'Foul' by Andrew Jennings
- 2002 Observer article outlining criticism of Blatter
- TIME Europe article on Zen-Ruffinen's allegations
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