ZURICH (AP) — Sepp Blatter insists FIFA is not corrupt, saying world soccer’s governing body just needs to improve its image following World Cup hosting votes tainted by allegations of corruption.
FIFA’s president fiercely defended his organization in a Swiss magazine interview, and denounced England for reacting like an arrogant bad loser after Russia and Qatar were chosen to stage the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.
“I’ll say it clearly: there is no systematic corruption at FIFA. That’s nonsense,” Blatter told the Weltwoche weekly. “We are financially clean and transparent.”
FIFA’s ethics court suspended two of Blatter’s executive committee colleagues from taking part in last Thursday’s balloting after a British newspaper alleged bribe–taking and vote–rigging.
Blatter then reminded FIFA voters immediately before polling about media “evils” during the World Cup campaign.
Within 24 hours of a humiliating rejection, officials from England’s 2018 bid also accused several voters of breaking promises of support they gave to a lobbying team that included Prince William and Prime Minister David Cameron.
Blatter said he was surprised by the reaction in England, which he called “the motherland of fair play.”
“Now some of them are proving to be bad losers themselves,” he said. “I sense in some reactions a little bit of arrogance of the western, Christian kind.”
Leaders of Australia’s defeated 2022 bid also cited broken promises after they followed England in another first–round elimination.
However, Blatter defended FIFA for choosing the riskiest, most expensive bids, which saw the World Cup hosting rights awarded to Eastern Europe and the Middle East for the first time.
“It’s my philosophy to drive forward the expansion of football. The next regions that we need to conquer would be China and India,” Blatter said. “Football has become a political matter. Heads of state court me. Football has become a monster, but it’s a positive monster.”
Blatter dismissed suggestions that FIFA officials are tempted to cash in on soccer’s global popularity.
“Nobody can come along and simply hold out their hand. There are no rotten eggs,” he said.
Three days before the vote, Britain’s state broadcaster, the BBC, and newspapers in Switzerland and Germany alleged that three long–standing members of FIFA’s ruling committee took kickbacks from its former marketing partner in the 1990s.
Blatter dismissed the alleged payments as insignificant.
“Fifteen years ago, there were apparently payments to foreign FIFA officials that weren’t even illegal at the time and were even tax deductible,” he said, adding that the ethics panel now monitored such behavior.
While defending FIFA’s system of choosing World Cup hosts, Blatter said the organization he has led for 12 years would now “look inward” before making changes.
“We can’t go on like this. We need to improve our image,” he said. “We also need to set some things straight inside FIFA.”