Sepp Blatter insists he is not to blame for FIFA’s corruption scandal because he could not possibly monitor the actions of everyone working under him.
World football’s governing body’s president made his first public appearance since Tuesday as he addressed attendees at the FIFA Congress opening ceremony in Switzerland on Thursday.
Blatter spoke after seven senior FIFA figures were arrested yesterday morning on corruption charges at their Zurich hotels.
While the 79-year-old conceded the organisation has lost the trust of the football public after those dramatic events, he showed no signs of bowing to widespread calls for him to resign.
Instead, he pledged to take FIFA forward ahead of tomorrow’s presidential election, which could see him given a fifth term in office ahead of Jordanian candidate Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein.
And Blatter, who admitted he expects "more bad news to follow" off the back of yesterday’s developments, vowed to assist authorities to ensure justice is done.
He said: “You will agree with me these are unprecedented and difficult times for FIFA. The events of yesterday have cast a long shadow over football and over this week’s congress.
“Actions of individuals bring shame and humiliation on football and demand action and change from us all.
“We cannot allow the reputation of football and FIFA to be dragged through the mud any longer. It has to stop here and now.
“I know many people hold me ultimately responsible for the actions and reputation of the global football community, whether it’s a decision for the hosting of a World Cup or a corruption scandal.
“We, or I, cannot monitor everyone all of the time. If people are going to do wrong, they will also try to hide it.
“It must fall to me to be ultimately responsible for the reputation and the wellbeing of our organisation and to find a way forward to fix things.
“I will not allow the actions of a few to destroy the hard work and integrity of the vast majority of those who work so hard for football.
“I must stress that those who are corrupt in football are in the tiny minority like in society – but like in society, they must be caught and held responsible for their actions.
“Football cannot be the exception of the rule. That is our responsibility at FIFA and we will co-operate with the authorities to make sure anyone involved in wrongdoing, from top to bottom, is discovered and punished.
“There can be no place for corruption of any kind. The next few months will not be easy for FIFA. I am sure more bad news will follow but it is necessary to begin to restore trust in our organisation.”
UEFA president Michel Platini claimed today the vast majority of European countries will vote for Prince Ali in tomorrow’s anonymous ballot.
Blatter, however, is still thought to have huge support in other regions and he was bullish as he looked ahead to the vote.
He added: “Let this be the turning (point). More needs to be done to make sure everyone in football behaves responsibly and ethically and everywhere, also outside the field of play, where there is no referee, no boundaries and no time manager.
“Football – the fans, the players, the clubs, the world – deserves so much more and we must respond. Tomorrow, the congress has an opportunity to begin on what will be a long and difficult road to rebuilding trust.
“We have lost that trust. We must now earn it back through the decisions we make, through the expectations we place on each other and through the way we behave individually.”