Ruben Sprich / Reuters

Sepp Blatter quits as FIFA chief as graft probe closes in on aide

Recently re-elected president announces decision just days after several FIFA officials were arrested

Sepp Blatter announced his resignation as FIFA president Tuesday in the face of a U.S.-led corruption investigation that has plunged world soccer's governing body into the worst crisis in its history.

The 79-year-old's decision — unexpected, despite the recent goings-on at FIFA — was delivered at a news conference in Zurich. It comes six days after the FBI raided a hotel in the Swiss city and arrested several FIFA officials and just four days after he was re-elected to a fifth term as president.

Blatter said an election to choose a new FIFA president would be held as soon as possible.

“FIFA needs profound restructuring,” he said.

FIFA, ruled over by Blatter since 1998, has been rocked by the announcement last week of charges resulting from a U.S. investigation into alleged widespread financial wrongdoing stretching back for years. Swiss authorities mounted their own criminal probe into the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.

The U.S. Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation did not immediately respond to requests for comment following Blatter's announcement

Blatter initially attempted to bat away the furore, relying on his network of friends to hold onto power at FIFA, which he joined in 1975.

In a presidential election Friday, Blatter held off sole challenger Prince Ali of Jordan 133-73 in the first round of voting, prompting Ali to pull out of a subsequent second round.

On Tuesday, Prince Ali declined to say if he'd run again, but didn't rule it out. "I am at the disposal of all the national associations who want a change, including all of those who were afraid to make a change," he told CNN.

Michel Platini, the president of European body UEFA who had called for Blatter's resignation last week, priased his decision today to go.

"It was a difficult decision, a brave decision, and the right decision," said Platini, Blatter's one-time protege.

Meanwhile the probe into alleged corruption at FIFA continues. Blatter was not mentioned in either the U.S. or Swiss investigations and his resignation appeared to do little to change that fact as of Tuesday.

Switzerland's office of attorney general reiterated that it was not investigating the outgoing FIFA president.

“Joseph S. Blatter is not under investigation by the OAG. His announced resignation will have no influence on the ongoing criminal proceedings,” the attorney general said in a brief statement.

The investigation however closed in on those around Blatter on Tuesday, when FIFA was forced to deny that his right-hand man, Secretary-General Jerome Valcke, was implicated in a $10 million payment that lies at the heart of the U.S. case.

But at the same time, a letter addressed to Valcke was published outlining the transaction.

The organization said in an earlier statement that Valcke, who has been secretary-general since 2007 and is seen as one of the most powerful men in world sport, had no role in the payments, which were authorized by the chairman of FIFA's Finance Committee.

The chairman of the committee at the time of the payments was Argentina's Julio Grondona, who died last year.

A person familiar with the matter said on Monday that U.S. prosecutors believe Valcke made the $10 million bank transactions which are central to a U.S. bribery investigation against FIFA.

Al Jazeera and wire services

Related News

FIFA, Soccer

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter


FIFA, Soccer

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter