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Sunday, May 15, 2011

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Bold claim: FIFA chief Sepp Blatter, seen here at a news conference earlier this week, says soccer's world governing body's "survival is at stake" in next month's presidential election. AP PHOTO

Blatter claims FIFA can't survive if he loses presidency

AP

LONDON — Sepp Blatter says the "survival of FIFA is at stake" in next month's presidential election.

Blatter also warned Friday that soccer's international governing body could "disappear into a black hole" if he is beaten by Mohammed bin Hammam for FIFA's top job.

Blatter has fast-tracked an investigation into fresh allegations of corruption against six senior FIFA members that surfaced this week.

Bin Hammam, a former ally of Blatter, accused the 75-year-old Swiss on Thursday of allowing FIFA's image to be "sullied beyond compare."

Blatter countered in a column printed in newspapers across Europe that world soccer would face an uncertain future if he isn't elected to a fourth four-year term.

"The ballot on 1 June could lead to a seismic shift with irreversible damage," Blatter said. "It is a question of whether the game's established world governing body will continue to exist after this date or whether it will disappear into a black hole."

Despite painting such a pessimistic vision of FIFA's future, Blatter is confident of being re-elected by its 208 national members.

"I will win the election with a clear two-thirds majority," he predicted. "South America, Central and North America, Europe, Oceania and a significant part of Africa and Asia will continue to support my ideas. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile outlining what the alternative would be, i.e. none at all."

Blatter acknowledged that he is "accused of acting in an undemocratic way."

"Decision-making authority can and must, however, be organized centrally, as in any other global undertaking," he said. "Football works because there is one set of laws that applies on every continent. Otherwise, everyone would do their own thing.

"Or let me pose it like this: Who, in future, would establish which laws of the game if decision-making powers were delegated to the six confederations?"

Blatter will try to shift the focus this weekend to using soccer to promote peace in the Middle East. Accompanied by Prince Ali of Jordan, Blatter will travel on Sunday to the Palestinian territory and the following day to Israel.

But the visit is likely to be overshadowed by questioning about the ethics of FIFA.

England Football Association chairman David Bernstein was asked Thursday whether he trusted either Blatter or bin Hammam to run world soccer.

"I don't want to answer that question," he said.

Both the F.A. and FIFA are running separate investigations into alleged corruption during the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Those claims were revealed during a British Parliamentary inquiry this week.

FIFA is looking into whether executive committee members Issa Hayatou and Jacques Anouma were paid $1.5 million to vote for Qatar, which was awarded the 2022 World Cup. Evidence from an undercover investigation by The Sunday Times newspaper released to the British hearing sparked those questions.

David Triesman, chairman of The F.A. until last May, told the lawmakers that four long-standing FIFA executive committee members — Jack Warner, Nicolas Leoz, Ricardo Teixeira and Worawi Makudi — engaged in "improper and unethical" conduct in the 2018 bidding, which was won by Russia.



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