LONDON (Reuters) - British politicians, media and fans united on Tuesday in calls for Sepp Blatter to be kicked out as FIFA president, saying his credibility was shot and he could not lead essential reform of the sport’s governing body.
Blatter, 75, is set to be re-elected unopposed as president on Wednesday, having brushed off allegations of corruption which has concerned some leading sponsors of the organization he has run since 1998.
His rejection of criticism and any suggestion of a crisis has prompted widespread anger and derision in Britain, where many people are still smarting from England’s humiliating failed bid to stage the 2018 World Cup.
“Rotten does not even come close to describing FIFA — football’s governing body is mired in allegations of corruption, bribery and sleaze,” The Daily Mirror newspaper said in its editorial under the headline “Give the boot to Blatter.”
“If Blatter had an ounce of dignity he would have resigned months ago. Sadly, the beautiful game has been brought low by the ugly actions of its leaders.”
The mass-selling Sun tabloid described Blatter as “shifty, arrogant, evasive.”
“How shameful for world football that Sepp Blatter is likely to be re-elected unopposed as its head,” it said. “FIFA must be cleaned up. It cannot happen with him at its helm.”
The British media has long been hostile to FIFA and has particularly targeted the organization since England’s campaign for the 2018 tournament attracted just two votes, despite the involvement of Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William.
Newspaper and TV reports have since claimed a number of senior FIFA officials had taken bribes in return for votes.
Two senior figures, the head of Asian soccer Mohamed bin Hammam and CONCACAF chief Jack Warner, have now been suspended over bribery allegations which they both deny.
Both the English and the Scottish Football Associations have called for the FIFA presidential election to be postponed, and with the issue dominating the news agenda, the issue has attracted increasing political attention.
Britain’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport said it backed the FA, calling for a full probe of the bribery claims.
“FIFA has to undergo massive reform and become much more transparent and accountable,” a spokeswoman said.
Ivan Lewis, the spokesman on sport for the opposition Labour Party, said Blatter’s credibility had “gone.”
“Football does not belong to a small elite. It belongs to the millions of fans from remotest Africa, to the beaches of Brazil, the great cities of Madrid, Paris and London, and they deserve better leadership than this,” he told Sky News.
British parliamentarian Damian Collins, who is involved with “ChangeFifa,” a recently launched international parliamentary coalition, told Reuters that governments, football associations and FIFA sponsors needed to unite to force change.
“This is a real crisis and I don’t think Sepp Blatter addressed that at all in his remarks yesterday,” he said.
Meanwhile, ordinary fans expressed disillusionment.
“If this wasn’t so serious it would be something out of Gilbert and Sullivan. It’s a farce,” Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters Federation, told Reuters.
“I don’t think you’ll find a single football fan in this country who believes that everything at FIFA in terms of both the World Cup bid and other things is clean and above board.
“Things cannot go on. It’s self-evident I think that this organization cannot continue in its present state.”
Additional reporting by Avril Ormsby and Adrian Croft