FIFA says Blatter not involved in investigation, calls arrests “difficult moment”

FIFA president Sepp Blatter is not involved in bribery allegations, says organisation’s spokesman, adding “FIFA welcomes this investigation.”

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND (MAY 27, 2015) (REUTERS) – Soccer’s governing body FIFA on Wednesday (May 27) called the arrest of six of its leading figures on bribery charges a “difficult moment” but said President Sepp Blatter would not step down and that the next World Cups would go ahead as planned in Russia and Qatar.

“This is a difficult moment,” spokesman Walter De Gregorio said.

De Gregorio added that the election of the FIFA president, which is expected to return Blatter for a fifth term, would proceed this week as scheduled, saying the arrests were unrelated to the vote.

“Of course the meeting will proceed. I am aware that there are differing opinions but from our side, we will carry through with the meeting. It has nothing to do with the pending investigation.”

De Gregorio also said that “FIFA is the victim here,” adding that no raids were taking place at the organisation’s headquarters.

“Rather, the federal authorities are here and we are cooperating with them, handing them all the information.”

Swiss police arrested some of the most powerful figures in global soccer on Wednesday, announcing a criminal investigation into the awarding of the next two World Cups and plunging the world’s most popular sport into turmoil.

Those arrested did not include Blatter, the Swiss head of football’s multi-billion dollar governing body FIFA, but included several of those just below him in the hierarchy of the wealthiest and most powerful sports body on earth.

FIFA’s spokesman said “our top priority is to shed light on all the open questions in connection with these criminal charges we pressed on November 18.”

FIFA lodged a criminal complaint in 2014 over the “possible misconduct of individual persons” in connection with the awarding of hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.