Sepp Blatter has announced that he will resign as president of FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, saying the sport needs “a profound overhaul” following the indictments of 14 top soccer officials on corruption and racketeering charges. Blatter, who last week was re-elected to a new four-year term, said he will remain president until a special election can be held to choose his successor.
FIFA’s next general meeting is in May 2016 in Mexico City, but Blatter urged a special session before then for the purpose of selecting a new president.
“I have been reflecting deeply about my presidency and about the 40 years in which my life has been inextricably bound to FIFA and the great sport of football,” Blatter wrote in a resignation letter released by FIFA. “I cherish FIFA more than anything and I want to do only what is best for FIFA and for football. I felt compelled to stand for re-election, as I believed that this was the best thing for the organization. That election is over but FIFA’s challenges are not. FIFA needs a profound overhaul.
“While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football—the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at FIFA.”
Blatter was re-elected president on May 29, just days after 14 people, including several top FIFA officials, were indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice and charged with 47 counts of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies in connection with what the department called a “24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer.”
In announcing his resignation, Blatter, who has served as president of FIFA for 17 years, called for term limits on the position and greater “integrity checks” for members of the Executive Committee that governs the organization as well as site selection for the World Cup. Blatter also called for term limits of Executive Committee members as well.
“It is my deep care for FIFA and its interests, which I hold very dear, that has led me to take this decision,” Blatter said. “I would like to thank those who have always supported me in a constructive and loyal manner as president of FIFA and who have done so much for the game that we all love. What matters to me more than anything is that when all of this is over, football is the winner.”
U.S. Soccer, which had expressed disappointment in Blatter’s re-election, issued the following statement in response to his resignation: “The announcement today by President Blatter represents an exceptional and immediate opportunity for positive change within FIFA. I commend him for making a decision that puts FIFA and the sport we love above all other interests. This is the first of many steps towards real and meaningful reform within FIFA. Today is an occasion for optimism and belief for everyone who shares a passion for our game.”