June 15, 2015

GENEVA (AP) Could Sepp Blatter make a stunning U-turn and run again for FIFA president?

Sure, it's possible, says a former adviser.

Not so, says FIFA.

Speculation about Blatter's future has intensified after a Swiss newspaper reported Sunday that Blatter is considering trying to retain the presidency after receiving support from Africa and Asia.

Klaus Stoehlker, a public relations executive who advised Blatter during his recent re-election campaign, told The Associated Press on Monday that the scenario is plausible. He claimed Blatter is still the best man for the job.

''He is a Swiss warrior of the ancient ages,'' Stoehlker said. ''The Swiss warrior takes decisions, and perhaps when the war is changing, he makes a new decision.''

But FIFA pointed to Blatter's June 2 announcement in which he said he would not be a candidate in the election, which is due to be held between December and February.

Still, two weeks after he announced his decision to step down amid a spiraling corruption crisis, the 79-year-old Blatter seems to be a rejuvenated player in the FIFA leadership stakes.


Q: Who is fueling speculation of a Blatter candidacy?

A: Klaus Stoehlker. He founded his PR agency in 1982 and has offices in Berlin and Zurich, FIFA's home city.

Stoehlker was hired by Blatter to help his five-month re-election campaign. Blatter won the May 29 vote against Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan. Blatter announced his resignation four days later, saying he would stay until a successor was elected.

''I helped him win the campaign,'' Stoehlker told the AP in a telephone interview. ''Now, I am not consulting (for) FIFA and I am not consulting the president.''


Q: Why now?

A: Stoehlker spoke out after a turbulent week in which FIFA director of communications Walter de Gregorio suddenly left his job after a rift with the president, and the serious election talk focused on UEFA President Michel Platini, a former Blatter ally who is now an adversary.

Like any good PR executive, Stoehlker appears attracted by helping shape a major world news story.

''It will be a huge battle and a big game for (control of) FIFA,'' he said of the election contest.

Stoehlker said the next FIFA president will decide how to spend a ''golden pot'' of $10 billion - the projected revenue between now and the end of the 2022 World Cup.


Q: Does Blatter even want to stay on?

A: He has not ruled it out, according to Stoehlker.

''The president is in excellent spirits, that I know,'' Stoehlker said. ''The president is fully prepared to step down but only if there is a competitor who is able to take over the job.''

Here's where Platini comes in. The former France great is head of powerful European body UEFA.

''You can't just take a footballer or Michel Platini to become president,'' Stoehlker said.

He said the job needs political and diplomatic skills to balance the needs of 209 national federations.

''He (Blatter) has created the global FIFA,'' Stoehlker said.

Blatter reportedly still has solid support from Africa and Asia, which currently do not have a natural candidate like Platini.


Q: Who would lead a backlash against Blatter?

A: UEFA, World Cup sponsors and FIFA's own election monitor.

Only Blatter's announced resignation stopped European soccer leaders from holding a crisis meeting to discuss how to strike back at FIFA.

FIFA sponsors are traditionally slow to criticize, regardless of scandals piling up.

However, that changed after the May 27 arrests in Zurich of two FIFA vice presidents and five other officials suspected of bribery and racketeering.

Stoehlker said no contracts - which cover two World Cups - have been canceled.

Domenico Scala, FIFA's audit and compliance committee chairman who oversees the election process, said in a pointed statement Sunday that leadership change is ''clearly indispensable.''


Q: What has Blatter said?

A: Nothing in public since his June 2 resignation statement at FIFA headquarters.

Yet, it's clear Blatter does not want Platini to get the presidential office he has occupied since 1998.

On May 15, in a rare meeting with international media during the election campaign, Blatter confirmed that Platini's days as preferred protege were over.

''There was once one,'' Blatter said, when asked if he had an ideal successor. ''But, you know, I am not going to prepare a successor.''

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