Embattled Fifa president expected to triumph against challenger Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein as Greg Dyke threatens European World Cup boycott
Lunch is over, and we’re back underway in Zurich. It turns out the bomb threat was just that, a threat. It hasn’t disrupted proceedings.
“An anonymous threat against the Fifa congress was received ... and immediately evaluated,” says Jérôme Valcke. “A bomb threat was received... in consultation we decided to search the room. The premises have been cleared and we can start again.”
Here is our latest news story on the developments at Casa Fifa, including a synopsis of Blatter’s speech that he made this morning to the congress, and English FA chairman Greg Dyke’s hopes for a Uefa boycott of the 2018 World Cup.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter has admitted that this week’s wave of arrests and corruption allegations have “unleashed a storm” but improbably called for “unity and team spirit” as he appealed for a fifth term of office.
The delegates of 209 national football associations are preparing to cast their votes later on Friday for the next president of football’s world governing body, in an election overshadowed by serious allegations of corruption made by US prosecutors.
The Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, Peter Beaumont, has also been in touch:
Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has now weighed in on the expected vote on whether to suspend Israel at Fifa this afternoon. The Palestinian motion - currently still on the agenda for a vote later - alleges discrimination by Israel against Palestinian football and cites the fact that five teams from five illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are allowed to play in the Israeli league.
Oh it’s all kicking off now. We know that the Swiss authorities are investigating the bidding process behind the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but the president of the Congolese FA and Fifa executive committee member, Constant Omari, has now told French radio RTL that Germany bought the right the host the 2006 World Cup!
Germany bought the vote of Oceania, illegally, to earn the organization of the 2006 World Cup, but that’s not spoken about. When it’s Germany, nobody wants to speak about it.
Owen Gibson has emailed this update.
‘Zurich Police confirm that they received bomb threat. All media and delegates were moved out of the main Congress hall at lunch but all the media are still in the separate working room. Fifa general secretary Jérôme Valcke promising an update in 15 minutes.’
Very interesting development: Serious Fraud Office is “actively assessing material in its possession and ready to assist international criminal investigations” in relation to Fifa.
Serious Fraud Office investigating material it has relating to FIFA corruption
This is very much unconfirmed, but German news outlet Handelszeitung is reporting that there has been a bomb threat at the Fifa congress in Zurich! They claim to have heard the news from a city police spokesman.
Delegates and media inside the building appear to be unaware. We will have more details on this as soon as they appear.
Reports of a bomb threat to the Congress centre. Fifa promising an update imminently but media centre hasn't been evacuated.
Disgraced former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner has been pictured dancing and at a political rally just hours after he was released from prison and taken to hospital in an ambulance citing exhaustion.
Warner was arrested in a sweeping corruption probe launched by US authorities this week and taken to prison in Trinidad’s capital Port of Spain. On Thursday, the 72-year-old appeared in court, where a judge detailed eight counts against him and then set bail at 2.5m Trinidadian dollars (US$395,000). He was also told he must surrender his passport and report to police twice a week.
Whilst we are in Australasia, worth noting that New Zealand’s federation are also expected to back Prince Ali.
@michaelbutler18 I know it may be ultimately pointless but I've never been prouder of NZ football than today voting against Blatter
As a reminder, Australia is one of the few associations worldwide to publicly come out and oppose Blatter’s re-election. If you want a bit more background on their role in deciding today’s election, have a go on Scott McIntyre’s piece: ‘Australia’s move against Sepp Blatter in Fifa vote is honourable – but risky.’
Fifa whistleblower Bonita Mersiades was the head of communications for Australia’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup and offered evidence in Fifa’s probe into the bidding process for that tournament, which was awarded to Qatar, and the 2018 finals, which went to Russia.
Rather than being commended for her courage, Mersiades’ reliability as a witness was questioned and her evidence dismissed in a summary of the investigation released by Judge Hans-Joachim Eckert of Fifa’s ethics committee six months ago.
I know I’ve always been telling the truth, it’s about what I know,” she told Reuters on Friday. “It’s about the Fifa environment. Quite clearly this type of behaviour had been going of for decades. The issue that I have been advocating for some time is reform of Fifa.
“That (behaviour) is what many people have been focusing on for years and trying to change. Some of those people have been dismissed, called discredited morons. I give no apology for wanting the game run to the highest standards of transparency and accountability.”
I know you are all fretting over the health of Jack Warner, after he left jail in Trinidad in an ambulance on Thursday, apparently suffering from exhaustion. You’ll be relieved to know that he is alive and well …
@michaelbutler18 They'll need to update their financial report to include bail money!
Congress has broken for lunch. In true football style, it will take 90 minutes to complete and will resume at 1.30pm in Zurich, which is 12.30pm BST. We will, of course, continue to distract you from doing any of your actual work today.
I wonder what’s on the menu?
Following the publication of that financial report, Domenico Scala, Fifa’s audit & compliance chair, has been speaking.
“It is the leader’s tone at the top that ensures it is embedded at all levels. This tone must be honest.”
Domenico Scala, head of audit and finance committee, speaks sense on Fifa's need for culture change. Trouble is, we've heard it all before.
Page six of that report, meanwhile, is simply this:
Fifa have published their 2014 Financial report, which is just the kind of light reading that your Friday needs.
2014 Financial Report http://t.co/oOfwNObqjQ
More from Blatter:
“The committees I mentioned at Fifa cannot control all 300m and all fans in the world. That is impossible. You can’t just ask people to behave ethically just like that”
Let’s catch up with a couple more quotes from Blatter’s speech this morning. And he’s gone all aquatic.
“Fifa has become a business. It is no longer a club as it is in the Swiss civil code, like a swimming club or a fishing club.”
A nautical metaphor. Bingo! "Join us to put Fifa back on the right track, where the boats will stop rocking and go placidly into port."
That’s all from Mr Blatter for now, and with that I’ll hand over to Michael Butler. In the meantime catch up with our global round-up of the latest reaction to the crisis at Fifa.
That was a long speech by Blatter which covered some of the same ground as his opening of the 65th congress earlier. In total he has spoken for well over 30 minutes so far this morning in Zurich – Prince Ali is yet to address the audience. Here’s some of the reaction on the ground from British journalists:
Blatter says Fifa now has lots of committees. Ignoring fact some of those arrested served on those committees.
That was possibly the worst speech I've ever heard. 22 mins of deluded, rambling, irrelevant, self-serving Blatter blather. ***APPLAUSE***
Blatter telling congress about how much lovely broadcasters and sponsors bring in to Fifa (which he then gives to members). #fifa
As his president’s speech draws to a close, Blatter says:
It is not good for all this to occur two days before the election. I’m not going to use the word coincidence but I do have a small question mark.
We are at a turning point and we need to pull together and move forward. We cannot constantly supervise everybody in football. We have 209 members and 300m active participants, men and women. And with families, friend, we reach a figure of 1.6bn people that are directly touched. Our stat from last year, the German press said we are wrong. And though often Germans tell Fifa it is wrong, we are at 1.6bn.
We are a very important entity. With popularity comes responsibly. How can everybody take responsibility? There are limits on the pitch of the goal-lines, the sidelines, there’s a referee and a time limit. Outside the pitches there are no geographgical limits, no time limits, no referee.
Sepp Blatter gives the president’s address:
You will know that right now we are going through troubling times. I will not call in unprecedented – also in election congresses such as 2002. These events have cast a shadow so let’s try to lift that shadow. Let’s try to lift our spirits. We can’t let the reputation of football be dragged through the mud like that. Because they are truly at fault, especially if they are found guilty.
They are not the entire organisation; certain individuals who have forgotten that Fifa is based on respect discipline and a team sport with the same goal. We need to be singing from the same song sheet, especially when we talk of the character of the organisation. It’s our goal to share this respect with all of you.
In case you missed it, here’s a quick summary of what happened, and to whom, on Wednesday:
This graphic of FIFA leadership is extraordinary. pic.twitter.com/tTLOyrJKCa
To recap on how the voting will work, before the 209 associations cast their votes, incumbent Sepp Blatter – angling for a fifth term in the top job – and his only rival, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, will each address the Fifa congress. Prince Ali, from Jordan, was elected Fifa vice-president for Asia in 2011.
Voting takes place in a secret ballot, although several countries and regional groups have already declared who they intend to plump for.
Michel Platini’s suggestion yesterday that Uefa could consider a boycott of the 2018 World Cup has understandably caused a stir. The Guardian’s Damien Gayle has more:
The World Cup would go on even in the face of a boycott by Europe’s football federation, the head of Nigeria’s national association said today.
“A World Cup without [Europe], it would be regrettable. But I assure you, it will go on,” said Amaju Pinnick, president of the Nigerian Football Association, as he backed Sepp Blatter to remain as the sport’s global chief.
OH MY GOD. At Fifa congress, they' just tested e-voting system by asking delegates if Germany won World Cup. Five per cent said no! #FIFA
Palestinian protestors burst in shouting "red card for Fifa" before being bustled away by security.
Sepp Blatter opens the 65th Fifa congress:
The events on Wednesday unleashed a storm and it was even questioned whether this congress would take place or the agenda may be changed. Today I am appealing to unity and a team spirit so we can move forward together. It may not always be easy but it is this reason that we are here today. We are here to solve [these problems]. This may not happen in one day but we are starting and we will do it with the members of the national associations because you are the ambassadors of our football. You have the power to change the face of Fifa. You have the power in your hearts, a power you can not buy on the markets.
Let’s get down to work. Let us not just talk about problems, let us go and solve them. let us move forward. The important point is transparency. The important point is where is our football? Where does Fifa stand in the world? It is the fight against corruption, match fixing, and racism – which we still have in our game and it hurts. We will naturally talk about development but that all belongs together. We have a chance to create unity.
Fifa’s 65th congress is under way in Zurich where, following Friday’s arrests, only 25 of the 28 delegates have taken their place on stage. There are 18 points on the agenda and 18th will be the vote for presidency.
Protest over treatment of migrant workers in Qatar ahead of 2022 World Cup, as reported on extensively by Guardian. pic.twitter.com/ju5PEgVtCM
Hello, Lawrence Ostlere here to take the helm for a while, and the first thing to report is that Fifa have postponed today’s post-vote press conference until tomorrow, meaning the winner will not face the media today.
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki has denied that any public money was used to bribe Fifa officials in his country’s bid for the 2010 World Cup.
In a statement, Mbeki said:
As former president of the Republic of South Africa, I have noted reports alleging that bribes were solicited and paid to some officials of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association [Fifa] in exchange for our country to host the 2010 soccer World Cup.
I am not aware of anybody who solicited a bribe from the government for the purpose of our country being awarded the right to host the World Cup.
English FA chairman Greg Dyke has backed the idea of a co-ordinated European boycott of the World Cup in Russia in 2018.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme (I’ve taken the quotes from Press Association):
What there is no point in is one or two countries saying ‘We’re not going to take part’ because they will carry on with the tournament without them and that is pretty unfair on the fans.
But if Uefa as a group said ‘Look, unless you get this sorted we are not going to be in the World Cup’ then I think that we would join them.
There would be no point pulling England out if everyone else stays in. It would have no impact. It would just be forgotten.
But if you could pull Uefa out, that might have an impact. If Blatter gets re-elected, then that should be discussed.
I hope he doesn’t win but if he does I think the events of this week have turned him into a diminished figure and I can’t see him lasting more than a year or two.
Mr Blatter’s statement yesterday in which he basically said ‘Leave it to me, I will clean it up’ - nobody is going to believe that.
Aside from the presidential election, Fifa congress will also today tackle a call by the Palestinian Football Association for a vote demanding the suspension of Israel from the world football organisation.
The Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, Peter Beaumont, reports:
Despite last-ditch attempts at mediation by world football officials, the Palestinian delegation insisted it would push for a vote unless Israel expels five teams based in illegal Israeli settlements from its football league.
The five teams are Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel, Kiryat Arba, Bik’at Hayarden and Givat Ze’ev, which play in Israel’s lower divisions.
Once you’ve read through our global round-up, here’s your quick catch-up of Guardian Fifa coverage:
It’s widely expected that Blatter will sail off with his fifth presidential term today, despite the eruption this week of corruption allegations that have long haunted his time as Fifa’s chief.
So who will be voting for him?
The Fifa congress will begin at 8.30am UK time (9.30am in Zurich).
There are several items on the agenda – including “suspension or expulsion of a member” and “president’s address” – before item 17: election of the president. We could see the results of that election around 4pm UK time.
Welcome to Friday’s Fifa live blog, as voting is set to begin in a presidential election that under-siege incumbent Sepp Blatter is nonetheless expected to win handsomely.
Before that, here’s a global round-up of all the latest from the last few hours:
Brazil unrepresented at Fifa vote after Marin arrested and Del Nero flit. Football has been rotten in home of the beautiful game for years.
Our BoD met and has made the decision of voting for Prince Bin Ali Hussein as we cannot support the current political leadership of FIFA.Continue reading...