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FIFA Re-elects Blatter Amid Corruption Scandal

FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures after he was re-elected at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland, May 29, 2015.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures after he was re-elected at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland, May 29, 2015.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has been re-elected to another four year term, days after football's governing body was shaken by widespread corruption allegations.

Blatter was seven votes short of the required 140 majority in the first round of voting, but his opponent, Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan, withdrew before a second round could take place.

Addressing the 65th FIFA annual congress in Zurich, Switzerland, Blatter thanked his challenger and praised him for his integrity and commitment to reform FIFA. Blatter promised to elevate FIFA from its current critical state of affairs.

An official casts his ballot in the vote to decide on the FIFA presidency in Zurich, Switzerland, May 29, 2015.
An official casts his ballot in the vote to decide on the FIFA presidency in Zurich, Switzerland, May 29, 2015.

Addressing the congress earlier, Blatter said he will "shoulder responsibility for the current storm" of corruption allegations. "FIFA needs to recover its good name starting tomorrow," he said.

The U.S. Soccer [football] Association expressed disappointment in the result of the election, but congratulated Blatter.

“We will continue to push for meaningful change within FIFA,” U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a statement. "It is our hope he [Blatter] will make reform his number one property to ensure the integrity of the sport across the world.”

Gulati added that the goal for the governance of FIFA is to "be responsible, accountable, transparent and focused solely on the best interests of the game.”

The FIFA leadership vote came after a U.S. indictment this week led to the arrest of seven top football officials in Zurich.

Blatter said this week's events have "unleashed a storm," but he said he is "appealing for unity and the team spirit" so FIFA can move forward.

Unlike one day earlier when he said that he could not control everyone’s actions, Blatter said that he was “willing to accept that the FIFA president is accountable for everything.”

Blatter also said Friday "I don't think we would have these problems today" if Russia and Qatar were not awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, respectively. The U.S. was one of the losing bidders for the 2022 tournament.

Corruption charges

A U.S. indictment issued this week charges 14 people with offenses that include racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. A separate Swiss investigation is looking into allegations of mismanagement and money laundering connected to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Qatar on Friday insisted its World Cup bid was conducted with "integrity."

In Berlin after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that Blatter must resign, adding that it was “unthinkable” that he was the right person to head the world football federation after this week's corruption charges. “Frankly, what we have seen is the ugly side of the beautiful game,” he said.

Germany's Justice Minister Heiko Maas told the German daily Bild in an interview Friday FIFA's decision to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar can't stand if it turns out that votes were bought.

A combination of file pictures made on May 27, 2015 shows Fifa officials (LtoR, from upper row) Rafael Esquivel, Nicolas Leoz, Jeffrey Webb, Jack Warner, Eduardo Li, Eugenio Figueredo and Jose Maria Marin

The U.S. investigation stretches back to 1991 with allegations that include sports media executives paying or agreeing to pay $150 million in bribes in exchange for marketing rights to tournaments, as well as corruption related to the 2011 FIFA presidential election and the sponsorship of Brazil's soccer federation by a U.S. sportswear company.

Calls for resignation

Two major European football associations called on Blatter to resign, before FIFA presidential elections Friday, but Blatter has refused.

The president of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), French football legend Michel Platini, spoke openly about the FIFA scandal and took issue with Blatter's refusal to resign.

"We went to his office and I renewed my advice to him to go and that he should resign," he said Thursday. "That he should realize the moment was not a good one and to have the courage, honesty and grandeur to realize that it was not good.”

According to Platini, Blatter refused, arguing that it was too late, since the electing congress was about to start.

The German Football Association (DFB) has also demanded Blatter's resignation, citing the credibility issue with him.

“It is time for a change, definitely and that it is not a question of whether Blatter is guilty or not guilty,” DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach said. “It is time for change because we need FIFA as an institution with credibility and that is difficult, maybe impossible without a change at the top,” he added.

UK's corruption investigation

On Friday, Britain's Serious Fraud Office said it was examining information relating to possible corruption at soccer's world governing body FIFA. The SFO has not launched a formal criminal investigation.

Swiss police said a bomb threat has been made against the venue where the FIFA congress is being held. Zurich city police spokesman Peter Sahli said a police operation is ongoing but declined to provide further details.

The Hallenstadion's concert hall auditorium was cleared, but the building itself was not evacuated. The meeting then resumed after lunch.

Some material for this report came from AFP, Reuters and AP.