2 Jun 2015

Sepp Blatter’s credibility as Fifa boss ‘utterly destroyed’

Sepp Blatter’s “credibility as Fifa leader has been utterly destroyed” and the bidding for the next two World Cups should be re-run if corruption is proven, Culture Secretary John Whittingdale says.

John Whittingdale talked to Krishnan Guru-Murthy following Mr Blatter’announcement this evening that he is resigning as Fifa president, just days after being re-elected to a fifth term. This is a complete transcript of the interview.

JW: At this stage it’s not clear what has finally changed Sepp Blatter’s mind. All I can say is I’m very pleased that he has done so and has accepted what has been obvious to us for a long time, which is that his credibility as Fifa leader has been utterly destroyed.

KGM: What happens now?

JW: We’ve always made clear that what we want to see is fundamental change in the way Fifa operates and a thorough examination of some of the events of the past. None of that could have happened while Sepp Blatter was still in charge. Hopefully now there will be a new leadership in place and we can press ahead with the reforms which everybody sees are so badly needed.

KGM: The strange thing is, he does appear to think he’s still in charge. And the Fifa rules suggest it could take months and months to call a new extraordinary congress.

JW: Well, obviously, I think that the process of setting in train reforms needs to start as quickly as possible. It would seem to me extraordinary if he, having announced that he was stepping down, then continued to run the organisation. But I’ll be talking to Greg Dyke (FA chairman) tomorrow, and obviously he will be in the forefront of pressing for change, as the English FA have been for the last few years.

KGM: So you want to see interim leadership now instead of Blatter leading this process of change, which is what his statement seemed to suggest?

JW: Well, I think we’ll need to wait and see, but clearly in our view Sepp Blatter is not fit to conduct the change that is required, and therefore the sooner he steps aside and a new leadership can be put in place, the better.

KGM: Do you have a candidate you would throw your weight behind? Prince Ali is the obvious person, I suppose, who people will congregate around because he was the challenger before.

JW: Well, that is for the English FA to decide who to support, and the other home nations. The English FA have been in the forefront of calling for a change of leadership. They supported Prince Ali, but we’ll wait and see what other candidates emerge.

KGM: What is the geopolitics of this, though? Russia wanted Blatter there. They see this as an attempt to attack Russia, accuse it of corruption and potentially undermine the potential of them holding the World Cup after all. This is way beyond football, isn’t it?

JW: Well, I mean, I think one of the consequences of Blatter trying to hang on was that a very unfortunate split was opening up between the European nations and, indeed, Latin America, and then Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. That was very evident in the voting. I hope that now we are going to have a new leadership, that the whole of world football will come together and unite behind the new leader.

KGM: Do you think that split between European football and Africa and Asia can be healed? Can they come together to have common interests?

JW: Well, it will need a thorough examination of the way Fifa operates. But as long as Sepp Blatter was there, there was going to be this division and there was going to be the obstacle towards reform. Now that he has gone, I hope that we can address both those things.

KGM: Does this reopen the whole question of whether the Qatar World Cup should go ahead?

JW: I think we need to wait until the outcome of the investigation that is taking place by the Swiss authorities. They’re now examining the process by which both those decisions for Qatar and Russia were reached. At the moment, obviously, nothing has changed, although Sepp Blatter has gone.

KGM: But in your view, if corruption is proven with either of those bids, do you think those World Cups should be halted and the whole competition should be thrown open again?

JW: I think if it was shown that those decisions had been reached as a result of corruption and illegal activities, then obviously there would be huge pressure for a reopening of the bid.

KGM: Pressure you would back?

I would obviously wait and see the outcome. But yes, if those decisions were flawed and were the result of corrupt activities, then I would certainly think that there should be a reopening of the bids.