Wednesday, June 8, 2011

8 June 1998 - FIFA Gets Blattered

On 8 June 1998, Joseph "Sepp" Blatter became president of FIFA, winning an election against Swedish challenger Lennart Johansson. Shortly afterward, rumors of corruption surfaced and continue to surround Blatter to this day.

He won the election by a vote count of 111 to 80 to replace outgoing president João Havelange, who had served since 1974. Johansson immediately raised concerns about the manner in which Blatter won the election. Then, only a few months after the election, British author David Yallop published How They Stole The Game, a book about FIFA that included allegations that Blatter's votes were acquired through bribery. According to Yallop, an unnamed Middle Eastern ruler distributed a total of $1 million among 20 FIFA delegates prior to the election in return for their switching their votes from Johansson to Blatter.

Blatter successfully sued to ban the book's publication in his home country of Switzerland, but lost similar legal battles in Holland, Germany, Austria, and Brazil. The Dutch judge who rejected Blatter's request for an injunction in Holland urged FIFA to conduct an internal inquiry, but Blatter dismissed the advice, responding "Why should I? I cannot open an inquiry into myself. The elections are now finished."

Rumors of bribery and other forms of corruption have followed Blatter ever since, including allegations raised before his re-election in 2002. Those claims went to a Zurich court, who cleared Blatter of any personal involvement. In the most recent election, conducted last week, Blatter ran unopposed after his challenger, Mohammed bin Hammam, withdrew in the face of charges of bribery raised by a FIFA ethics committee.

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