FIFA president Sepp Blatter spoke for the first time Thursday about the American investigation into corruption within his organization.
“I know many people hold me ultimately responsible,” Blatter said in a speech at FIFA's annual congress. “I cannot monitor everyone all of the time.”
Blatter's speech came one day after 14 FIFA officials and FIFA business partners were arrested and indicted on various corruption charges. Blatter was not charged and U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch refused to say whether or not he was under investigation.
“These are unprecedented and difficult times for FIFA,” Blatter said. “The events of yesterday have cast a long shadow over football.”
The U.S. indictment alleges nine current and former high-ranking FIFA officials and five FIFA business partners engaged in decades-long corruption related to media and marketing contracts, as well as the selection of international tournament hosts.
Corruption in FIFA “has to stop here and now,” Blatter said.
Authorities in Switzerland, where FIFA is headquartered, have launched a separate criminal investigation into the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Blatter is up for re-election for a fifth term as FIFA's president. The vote will be held Friday and Blatter is widely expected to win, despite the scandal. UEFA president Michel Platini asked Blatter to resign but he refused.
Here is the full transcript of Blatter's remarks:
Ladies and gentleman, dear friends. You will agree with me that these are unprecedented and difficult times for FIFA. The events of yesterday have cast a long shadow over football and over this week’s congress. Actions of individuals, if proven, bring shame and humiliation and demand action and change from us all. We cannot allow the reputation of football and FIFA to be dragged through the mud any longer.
It has to stop here and now. I know many people hold me ultimately responsible for the actions and reputation for the global football community. Whether it is a decision for the hosting of a World Cup or a corruption scandal. I cannot monitor everyone all of the time. If people want to do wrong they will also try to hide it. But it must fall to me to be responsible for the reputation and well-being of our organization and to find a way forward to fix things. I will not allow the actions of a few to destroy the hard work and integrity of the vast majority of those who work so hard for football.
I must stress that those who are corrupting football are in the thin minority. Like in society. But like in society they must be caught and held responsible for their actions. Football cannot be the exception of the rule. That is our responsibility at FIFA. We will cooperate with all authorities that anyone involved in wrongdoing from top to bottom is discovered and punished. There can be no place for corruption of any kind. The next few months will not be easy for FIFA. I am sure more bad news will follow but it is necessary to begin to restore trust in our organization. Let this be the turning point. More needs to be done to make sure everyone in football behaves responsibly and ethically.
And everywhere, outside of the field of play, where there are no referees, no boundaries and no time limits. Football, the fans, the places, the clubs the world deserves so much more. We must respond tomorrow. Tomorrow the congress, we have the opportunity to begin on what will be a long and difficult road to rebuilding trust. We have lost their trust… and we must now earn it back. We must earn it back through the decisions we make and expectations we place on each other and through the way we behave individually.
- Dan Gartland