FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter can be easily named the most powerful figure in world sports and certainly its greatest survivor.
However, now Blatter has to face the biggest challenge of his 17-year reign: the president undergoes the U.S. and Swiss criminal investigations into corruption among soccer officials who were arrested by Swiss authorities in Zurich for alleged racketeering, conspiracy and corruption, and its president.
Nevertheless, the offical said he welcomed the probe to root out wrongdoing in football: “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.”
He went on, adding: “This is a difficult time for football, the fans and for FIFA as an organisation. 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.”
According to a statement, released by the U.S. Department of Justice, two current FIFA vice presidents were among those arrested. Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands and Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay.
The list of the indicted FIFA representatives includes Eduardo Li of Costa Rica, Julio Rocha of Nicaragua, Costas Takkas of Britain, Rafael Esquivel of Venezuela and Jose Maria Marin of Brazil.
All seven are connected with the regional confederations of North and South America and face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
“Nine of the 14 who were indicted by the Justice Department are football officials, while four are sports marketing executives, and another works in broadcasting. On Wednesday, FIFA’s independent ethics committee provisionally banned 11 from football-related activities, including Webb, Li, Rocha, Takkas, Jack Warner, Figueredo, Esquivel, Marin, Leoz, Blazer and Daryll Warner,” ESPN writes.
Meanwhile, CONCACAF said via statement that it is ready to cooperate with the investigation and added that it would not comment further on the allegations “which have been referred to the appropriate legal counsel through the pertinent channels.”
“CONCACAF continues to operate in the ordinary course of business, hosting all of its upcoming tournaments in a successful and timely manner, including the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.”
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the indictment alleged “corruption that is rampant, systemic and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States” and that it “spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.”
He went on, adding that Blatter, who was not arrested, said that he wanted to restore the public’s trust in FIFA.
“As unfortunate as these events are, it should be clear that we welcome the actions and the investigations by the U.S. and Swiss authorities and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football,” Blatter said. “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,” he added.