By Mike Collett and Brian Homewood
SEPP Blatter was re-elected president of FIFA for a fifth term on Friday after the only other candidate conceded defeat after a first round of voting in an election overshadowed by allegations of corruption in world soccer.
Blatter’s victory came despite demands that he quit in the face of a major bribery scandal being investigated by U.S., Swiss and other law enforcement agencies that plunged the world soccer body into the worst crisis in its 111-year history.
Neither Blatter nor Jordanian challenger Prince Ali bin Al Hussein got the necessary two thirds of the vote in the first round, with Blatter on 133 and Prince Ali on 73. Prince Ali later conceded.
In a victory speech, Blatter declared: “Let’s go FIFA, let’s go FIFA,” to a standing ovation.
Speaking just before the vote, Blatter, who joined FIFA in 1975, said he felt that he had only been with the organisation for a short time and wanted to stay longer.
“What is time anyway. I find that the time I have spent at FIFA is very short,” he said. “The more one ages the more time flies by quickly. I am with you, and I would like to stay with you,” he said to applause.
Prince Ali, in his pitch for votes, had pledged an open, more democratic FIFA, saying: “We have heard in recent days, voices which described our FIFA as an avaricious body which feeds on the game that the world loves.
“There are no easy answers. And no blame that can be cast that will wash away the stain that marks us all,” he said.
While Asian, African and Latin American states had been expected to rally around Blatter, Europe, which accounts for all but three of the countries that have ever made it to a World Cup’s final match, had been keen for him to step aside.
On a visit to Berlin, British Prime Minister David Cameron told Blatter to go “the sooner the better”. Chancellor Angela Merkel said the dirty side of soccer must be cleaned up.
U.S. authorities have accused top FIFA figures and sports executives of corruption, while Switzerland is investigating the award of the next World Cup finals to Russia and Qatar.
The scandal widened on Friday when Britain’s Serious Fraud Office said it, too, was examining possible corruption at FIFA.
A judge in Argentina has ordered the arrest of three businessmen accused of using bribery to obtain soccer media rights, and the Brazilian Senate moved to open a formal inquiry into soccer bribery allegations.
Marco Polo Del Nero, the president of the Brazilian Football Confederation, dramatically flew back to Brazil from the FIFA Congress shortly before the election. His abrupt departure followed the arrest of nine senior FIFA officials including former Brazilian soccer chief Jose Maria Marin.
Del Nero told a press conference he did not plan to resign and “had nothing to do” with corruption.
FIFA takes in billions of dollars in revenue from television marketing rights and sponsorships, making it one of the wealthiest and most powerful sports bodies in the world. It has been dogged by corruption scandals for decades, mostly investigating itself and avoiding scrutiny by criminal courts.
Russia and Qatar deny wrongdoing in their bids to host the cup. Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of meddling in an effort to force Blatter out.
Qatar issued a further defence of its bid and said it would carry on with plans to stage the event. The decision to host the world’s biggest soccer tournament in a small desert state where daytime summer temperatures rarely fall below 40 degrees Celsius startled many in global sport.
Many of Blatter’s opponents have spoken of steps they can take against him. English Football Association chairman Greg Dyke said England could back a possible boycott of the 2018 World Cup if Blatter stays in office.
Other European soccer officials have also alluded to the prospect of a boycott, but that is still seen as unlikely given the tournament’s importance to the global game.
Most of the developing world in Africa, Asia and parts of Central America and the Caribbean are happy that FIFA under Blatter has guaranteed them annual grants and bonus payments in World Cup years.