2 Jun 2015

Sepp Blatter to resign: what caused him to go?

He’s desperately clung on, resisting calls from far and wide to resign, but today Sepp Blatter, the embattled Fifa president finally threw in the towel. And tonight reports the New York Times that Blatter has been placed under investigation.

We don’t know the exact reason for his demise. Blatter’s resignation came out of the blue after a hastily arranged press conference. But the writing was on the wall. Or was it the $10 million dollars on the wall?

Because it seems it was the allegation that Fifa’s secretary general, Mr Blatter’s right-hand man, was the “high ranking Fifa official” named in the US indictment papers, that really cranked up the pressure on Fifa and its president.

Here’s how it unfolded.

Central to last week’s dawn arrest of Fifa officials in Zurich was a claim in the US indictment that in early 2008 Jack Warner, a former Fifa Vice President received bank transfers totalling $10 million.

The transfers, it’s alleged, were taken by Mr Warner as a bribe for having helped South Africa secure the 2010 World Cup.

But up until now we only knew that the transfer of the money was allegedly authorised by an undisclosed ‘high ranking Fifa official’, as disclosed in the indictment.

Then last night, the New York Times reported that the “high ranking official” was in fact Jérôme Valcke. He is Fifa’s General Secretary and second in command to Mr Blatter – a revelation the turned up the heat on the president to uncomfortable levels.

This morning Fifa was forced to issue a statement saying the $10 million did exist but it was never intended as a bribe. Rather it was money that the South Africa Football Association (SAFA) had effectively “given” to Fifa to set up a legacy fund for the African Diaspora in the Caribbean.

But it denied Mr Valcke had anything to do with the money and instead said the funds were authorised by the former head of its finance committee- a man who is now deceased.

But that denial wasn’t to stand for very long. For in an immediate twist, a letter was leaked on Twitter from the head of SAFA in 2008 addressed to Mr Valcke, asking for the $10 million funds to be set side and allocated to Mr Warner to set up the legacy fund for Africans in the Caribbean.

Fifa’s response was to dismiss the letter saying all correspondence of that nature would be addressed to Mr Valcke and that did not mean he was involved with the transfer of the $10 million to Mr Warner or approved it.

But bit by bit the cracks were appearing and the seemingly impenetrable edifice around Mr Blatter appeared to be crumbling.

We don’t know for sure if today’s revelations tipped Blatter over the edge or whether after a week of intense pressure he simply decided his number was up.

Certainly there was no shortage of those who wanted to see him go and his refusal to budge was leading to deep divisions within the football world itself – with the FA and Uefa both threatening to boycott the World Cup in Russia.

Then just hours after denying his right hand man was involved in an allegedly fraudulent payment, Mr Blatter stood on a podium and finally threw in the towel.

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