Blatter favourite to be re-elected as FIFA President

FIFA President Sepp Blatter is the overwhelming favourite to be re-elected for a fifth term in Friday’s presidential vote.

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND (FILE – MARCH 20, 2015) (REUTERS) – Unless the world of soccer shifts on its axis at the end of this month, Sepp Blatter will be re-elected as FIFA president for a fifth term at the annual congress of world soccer’s governing body in Zurich.

It is almost inconceivable that Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan of FIFA’s executive committee will unseat the 79-year-old.

Five of FIFA’s six continental confederations publicly expressed their support for Blatter before the World Cup in Brazil last year, with UEFA declaring its opposition, meaning the vast majority of FIFA’s 209 members will vote for him.

Even UEFA president Michel Platini decided to stay in his current role and not stand against the Swiss incumbent knowing he had no real chance of beating him.

That realistically removed any doubt that Blatter’s 17-year reign would be extended until at least 2019 when he will be 83.

So how has soccer, the world’s most popular sport, reached a position where one old man is so powerful he is not voted out of office?

How can he stay, the sceptics ask, despite almost endless controversies and allegations of bribery and corruption pointed at FIFA for most of the last two decades?

The latest serious allegations were that the voting process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, awarded to Russia and Qatar, was corrupt.

The findings of the inquiry into those claims, led by American lawyer Michael Garcia, have been buried in the FIFA vaults and are never likely to be publicly revealed.

A new book, “The Ugly Game”, highlights claims of “How Qatar bought the World Cup” and Blatter’s role in it.

But like every allegation thrown at him since he first became president in 1998, Blatter has emerged unscathed and will almost certainly be voted back into office on May 29.

Factbox on Sepp Blatter of Switzerland, president of FIFA since 1998, who faces a challenge from three men for his position at this month’s election.

* Born on March 10, 1936 in the Swiss town of Visp.

* Graduated from the Sion and St Maurice colleges in Switzerland and then secured a Bachelor of Business Administration and Economics degree from the Faculty of Law at Lausanne University.

* Was an active footballer from 1948-1971, and played for the Swiss amateur league in the top division. He was a member of the Board of Xamax Neuchatel from 1970-1975.

* Blatter began his professional career as Head of Public Relations of the Valaisan Tourist Board in Switzerland and in 1964 became General Secretary of the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation.

* As Director of Sports Timing and Public Relations at Longines, he was involved in the organisation of the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games, getting his first taste of the international sports scene.

* Became FIFA secretary general in 1981 and, after 17 years serving under Joao Havelange, replaced the Brazilian as president in 1998.

* Faced trouble in 2002 when FIFA’s then secretary general Michel Zen-Ruffinen claimed Blatter’s 1998 election victory was based on bribery and corruption and that FIFA was being financially mismanaged at the highest levels.

* In 2004 Blatter attracted scorn from the women’s game when he suggested women players should wear tighter shorts.

* Beat Issa Hayatou of Cameroon, president of the Asian confederation, in the 2002 presidential election before being returned unopposed in 2007.

* Won a fourth term in 2011 when challenger Mohamed Bin Hammam of Qatar was barred from FIFA on bribery charges.

* Blatter has survived a series of scandals during his term in office including widespread accusations that Qatar bought the right to stage the 2022 World Cup. Qatar have always denied any wrongdoing.

* Faced FIFA’s ethics committee in 2011 in the wake of the bribery scandal that led to Bin Hammam’s life ban. Blatter was never accused of being involved in the bribery, but there were claims he know of its existence and did not act. All charges against him were dismissed.

* In 2011 Blatter said he would retire in 2015, but he is instead now seeking a fifth term of office to continue his mission.

* Blatter has not issued a formal election manifesto although in speeches throughout the world he has pledged to continue his reform programme and steer FIFA into “clear blue waters” again.

* William Hill odds for victory: 1-16 ON