England humiliated as Fifa closes ranks to re-elect Blatter

Blatter: 'Not only is our pyramid shaking but our ship has taken water'
Blatter: 'Not only is our pyramid shaking but our ship has taken water'

By Ian Dunt

English proposals to delay the election of Fifa's president until a reformist candidate could stand were humiliatingly rebuffed today when Sepp Blatter was re-elected.

In what appeared to be an orchestrated show of support for Sepp Blatter, the only remaining presidential candidate, delegate after delegate stood up to attack the Football Association (FA) before voting 172-17 to reject its proposal.

A few hours later he was re-elected with 186 from 203 cast ballots. The FA abstained.

The development came as Downing Street threw its weight behind the FA's stance, saying that Fifa "needs to reform" and insisting the presidential election should have been delayed.

"A lot of people have warned me I shouldn't be making this speech, but Fifa is a democratic organisation," FA chairman David Bernstein told the hall.

"The election has turned into a one-horse race. Only with a contested election will the winner have a proper, credible mandate. We are faced by an unsatisfactory situation and universal criticism from governments, sponsors, media and public."

The speech was met by stony silence from delegates and followed by a series of explicit and increasingly shrill attacks on the FA and the English press.

"Allegations - what a beautiful English word," the Cypress FA delegate said.

"Someone stands up says a few things... without a single shred of truth."

The head of the Congo FA said: "A single candidate sometimes proves that people are satisfied with that candidate."

The delegate from the Republic of Benin said: "We must be proud to belong to Fifa. We must massively express our support to President Blatter. Please applaud!"

The head of the Argentina FA launched into a particularly bruising attack on the British media, saying: "It looks like England is always complaining so please I say will you leave the Fifa family alone!

"We always have attacks from England. Their journalism is more busy lying than telling the truth."

The delegate later said he offered to support the England World Cup bid last year if Britain returned the Falkland Islands.

Mr Blatter himself appeared entirely unfazed by the tumultuous events of recent days, most of which have received considerably less press coverage internationally than in the UK.

He did not repeat his disastrous press conference from earlier in the week, however, in which he denied there was any crisis at Fifa.

"The Fifa ship must be brought back on the right route and I am the captain," he told the hall.

"I personally have had to face the public's anger, but I am the captain weathering the storm."

"This has been a difficult period in Fifa's history, and I have admitted it readily. We need a leader, someone who will accept his responsibility."

Mr Blatter announced that the 208 federations which make up the Fifa congress would now vote on World Cup hosts, instead of the 24 member executive committee.

An ethics committee would also be established, although it would be policed by the same members who elect it.

Meanwhile, the man who had campaigned to take over the presidency, Mohamed Bin Hammam, wrote to Fifa claiming that the manner of his suspension proved that he was "punished before I was found guilty".

Theo Zwanziger, head of the Germany FA, wrote demanding a re-examination of the 2022 bid, which was won by Qatar. A recent email suggested that it was 'bought'.

He wrote: "There is a considerable degree of suspicion that one cannot simply sweep aside, and I must expect that awarding this World Cup under these conditions needs to be examined anew.

"None of us could have imagined such a scandal. There is no end to the suspicions falling on members the Fifa executive. The task now is to shed light in a determined fashion, punish the guilty and develop mechanisms that prevent something like this from ever happening again."


Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.