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Sepp Blatter

Sepp Blatter

Sepp Blatter (born March 10, 1936 in Visp, Valais, Switzerland) is the 8th and current President of FIFA. He was elected on June 8, 1998, succeeding Dr. João Havelange (Brazil). His Senior Vice President is Julio Grondona.

Background

Sepp Blatter graduated in Switzerland before gaining a Bachelor's degree at Lausanne University.

His long and varied history includes posts such as Head of Public Relations of the Valaisan Tourist Board in his native Switzerland, as well as General Secretary of the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation. He was also Director of Sports Timing and Public Relations of Longines S.A. and was involved in the organization of the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games.

Since 1975 Sepp Blatter has been working at FIFA, first as Technical Director (1975-1981), then General Secretary (1981-1998) before his election as FIFA President in 1998. He was re-elected as head of FIFA in 2002, defeating Issa Hayatou in the election, and was re-elected unopposed for another four years on 31 May 2007 even though only 66 of 207 FIFA members nominated him. This would seem to reinforce the many alleged claims of football related corruption that he has been continuously linked with during his spell as head of FIFA. [cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/6518647.stm |title=Blatter set for third Fifa term |accessdate=2007-04-03 |date=2007-04-02 |publisher=BBC Online ]

Sepp Blatter was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2007 in the special category of ambassador of Football.

Changes to the game made under Blatter

* The "silver goal" replaced the "golden goal" rule in extra time of play-off matches. Under the "golden goal" rule, the match ends immediately if one side scores in extra time. The "silver goal" rule, however, states that the match will end at the half-time period in extra time if one team is leading – otherwise the match will continue until the end of the extra time period. Some fans believe that this rule change makes the game less exciting, while others felt that the game is more fair as a result. The new rule was first applied in the Euro 2004 competition, but it has since been discontinued along with golden goal. All competitions have now reverted to the traditional extra time rules, i.e. they must play the full amount of extra time (two fifteen-minute periods) no matter how many goals are scored.
* After the 2002 World Cup (the 17th World Cup), the current World Cup champion no longer automatically qualifies for the next World Cup finals, as was the case for the champions of all 16 previous World Cups. The first champion forced to re-qualify was Brazil, the 2002 World Cup champions.
* National associations must now enforce immediate suspensions of all players sent off during a game, even if television replays offer compelling evidence of a player's innocence. In particular, Blatter insists that a referee's judgement must be seen as final and that mistakes are part of the game. The FA, however, has refused to follow this directive, and allows appeals against straight red cards (though not those resulting from two yellows).
* Under Blatter, various rules purported to elevate the moral standards in the playing of the game were implemented including booking players who remove their shirts after scoring a goal starting in 2004, as well as those who are guilty of 'over-zealous celebrations'. The rationale for this particular rule change was that football is a global sport, and thus the sensibilities of conservative nations and spectators must be respected.
* In 2007, Blatter decided that no football matches will be played above 2500 metres (8200 ft) above sea level. This arbitrary number was revised to 3000 metres on June 26, 2007. This may have been aimed to split the opposition group formed by Colombia, Ecuador (who play at altitudes below 3000 meters but above 2500) Bolivia and Peru (with stadia above 3000 meters). This has dramatic consequences for the Bolivian national team, whose stadium is located more than 3000 metres above sea level. Blatter commented that football matches at extreme altitudes belong to the past, and that they are risky for players' health. However, no comprehensive medical studies have been shown to prove this. The Andean nations argue that playing in hot, humid, sea level temperature is in fact more dangerous, citing the death of Marc-Vivien Foé as an example.

Criticism

Allegations of corruption

Sepp Blatter's 1998 election to the presidency of FIFA over UEFA President Lennart Johansson occurred amidst much controversy. [Denis Campbell and Simon Kuper, [http://observer.guardian.co.uk/sport/issues/story/0,11839,676076,00.html $1m 'fixed' the FIFA poll, author claims] , The Observer Special Report, The Guardian Unlimited, March 21, 1999.] [Andrew Jennings, [http://www.soccernet.com/global/news/2002/0228/20020228featjenningsmain.html Havelange to Blatter, the dynasty based on corruption] , ESPN.com Soccernet, February 28, 2002.] His 2002's candidacy has also been marked with rumors of financial irregularities and backroom dealings, [ [http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/breaking/2002/0504/breaking28.htm FIFA president Blatter accused of corruption] , The Irish Times citing Reuters, 04-05-02.] culminating with direct accusations of bribery made in the British press by the Farra Ado, vice-president of the CAF and president of the Somalian football association, who claimed to have been offered $100,000 to vote for Blatter. "The night before the election people were lining up in Le Meridien Hotel (in Paris) to receive money. Some told me they got $50,000 before the vote and the same the next day, after Blatter won". [ [http://edition.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/europe/02/28/soccer.blatter/index.html?related Bribery allegation over FIFA poll] , CNN.com/World, February 28, 2002.]

Also in 2002, FIFA's general-secretary Michael Zen-Ruffinen, drew up a dossier outlining allegations of financial mismanagement within the organisation. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/1967384.stm Blatter could face corruption probe] , BBC Sports, May 4, 2002.] The dossier alleged that the collapse of FIFA’s marketing partner ISL had led to losses of up to $100m under Blatter's management. The allegations were backed by Johansson, [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/1974333.stm Fifa sues Blatter] , BBC Sports, May 8, 2002.] and the dossier was handed to the Swiss authorities, but in the end no action was taken. [ [http://www.swissinfo.org/eng/social_affairs/detail/Blatter_cleared_of_corruption.html?siteSect=201&sid=1495711&cKey=1039003200000 Blatter cleared of corruption] , swissinfo.org, December 4, 2002.] Also, an internal investigation within FIFA was halted by Blatter, which was seen by many as proof of his guilt. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/1926839.stm Blatter suspends Fifa investigation] , BBC Sports, April 12, 2002.] Zen-Ruffinen was removed from office by Blatter immediately before the FIFA World Cup 2002. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/2016855.stm Blatter set to sack critic] , BBC Sports, May 30, 2002.]

In May 2006, British investigative reporter Andrew Jennings' book "Foul" [Andrew Jennings, [http://www.harpercollins.co.uk/books/default.aspx?id=33431 FOUL!: The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals] , Harper Collins Publishers.] caused controversy within the football world by detailing an alleged international cash-for-contracts scandal following the collapse of FIFA's marketing partner ISL, and revealed how some football officials have been urged to secretly repay the sweeteners they received. The book also spoke of blatant vote-rigging that went on behind closed doors in the fight for Blatter's continued control of FIFA. Jeremy Barnett has described Blatter as 'the most corrupt man in football, if not the world'.

This is an extract of a review made by David Goldblatt for the British paper The Independent and published on June 9, 2006: "Official FIFA business, always an opulent inter-continental affair, has spiralled to grotesque levels. The massively enlarged carbuncle of football bureaucrats, created by Blatter as a phalanx of kept support, have lived the high life. In addition to the five-star, business-class, black-Mercedes arrangements, all have been allowed a daily expenses rate of 500 euros, for which no receipts or accounts are required. Members of the executive committee were handed $50,000 honorariums. President Blatter's salary and accounts remain, despite repeated requests, a matter of complete secrecy". [David Goldblatt, [http://arts.independent.co.uk/books/reviews/article752192.ece Kickbacks but no penalties] , The Independent online, 9 June 2006.] The publishing of the book in Switzerland was banned since Zürich-based FIFA sought and obtained a temporary injunction. [ [http://www.swissinfo.org/eng/social_affairs/detail/Publisher_challenges_Fifa_book_ban.html?siteSect=201&sid=6684402&cKey=1146737975000 Publisher challenges Fifa book ban] , swissinfo.org, May 4, 2006.]

On a BBC Panorama documentary, 'The Beautiful Bung - Corruption and the World Cup' was broadcast on Sunday 10 June 2006, revealing mass corruption throughout the FIFA ranks and heavily implicating Blatter amongst others.

2006 FIFA World Cup

During the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, Blatter's absence during the prize-podium events was noted and criticized in international media, as it was considered odd by many that FIFA's president was not present during the climax of FIFA's biggest event.

Blatter also made the press for comments made after a controversial second-round match between Portugal and the Netherlands, which saw referee Valentin Ivanov issuing a record 16 yellow cards and four red cards. After the match, Blatter lambasted the officiating, and said that Ivanov should have given himself a yellow card for his poor performance as a referee. [cite news|url =http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/world_cup_2006/5116414.stm |title = Blatter criticizes referee Ivanov | publisher = BBC |date = 2006-06-26|accessdate=2006-06-26 ] However, on the day when Ivanov turned 45, Blatter said he regretted his words and promised to officially apologise to Ivanov. [cite news|title=World-Blatter regrets criticism of referee Ivanov| url = http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=worldFootballNews&storyID=2006-07-04T114007Z_01_L04777073_RTRIDST_0_SPORT-SOCCER-WORLD-BLATTER-IVANOV.XML |publisher=Reuters| date=2006-07-04]

Furthermore in an interview with an Australian channel where he said that Australia should have won and not Italy (a controversial penalty was given to Italy, in the dying seconds, when it had appeared that Fabio Grosso had dived). He claims that the penalty given to Italy was not a penalty. The statement angered the Italian football federation FIGC which has asked for an apology. Blatter the next day said that he was misinterpreted and that he wanted to say to the Australian fans that their team had played a great game. [Cite web | url = http://sport.monstersandcritics.com/soccer/article_1216234.php/Blatter_refutes_misleading_quotes_in_Italy_World_Cup_row
title=Blatter refutes 'misleading quotes' in Italy World Cup row |publisher=Deutsche Presse-Agentur| date=2006-10-30
] Many Italians reacted to Blatter's comments by starting online petitions to have him removed from FIFA, and football completely. [Cite web |url = http://gopetition.com/online/9988.html | title= Let's kick Blatter out of football | publisher= GoPetition.com |date=2006-10-29 |accessdate = 2007-04-02]

Comments about women's football

Blatter incurred the ire of women footballers the world over in 2004 when he suggested that women should "wear tighter shorts". [cite news|url =http://football.guardian.co.uk/News_Story/0,1563,1124460,00.html |title = Soccer chief's plan to boost women's game? Hotpants | publisher = the Guardian |date = 2004-01-16|accessdate=2007-02-09 ]

Opinion on Martin Taylor's tackle on Eduardo

Blatter launched an attack against Martin Taylor after his tackle which broke Arsenal player Eduardo's leg. He regarded the challenge as an 'attack' on Eduardo and announced that he may take it further by overruling the F.A.'s decision to leave the ban as a three-match ban. This angered many football associates as he was implying that the F.A. cannot do their job properly.

Foreign Quotas

Blatter has incurred much criticism during 2007 and 2008 for his persistence in attempting to change EU employment law regarding the number of foreign players any one football club can field at any one time. His most recent plans are to set a restriction to 5 foreign players and having 6 players from the said team's own national pool. Blatter believes this would help the countries' national sides by having more national players playing in their leagues. This is hotly debated among the footballing world with very mixed views. Some believe it would benefit national sides and others believe that it will lower the standard of football being played in the country. Blatter has often referred to the English Premier League as one of the major problems in football and uses it as an example due to England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008. It's interesting to note, however, that Spain, with an almost equal number of foreign players in their top clubs, have won the same 2008 championship.

However Blatter's plans for player quotas break many employment laws throughout the world and most importantly the EU. These employment law issues mean that the proposal cannot be implemented. Blatter's plans have already been thrown out of the European Court for their gross neglect of EU freedom of employment laws.

Cristiano Ronaldo "slave" comments

In 2008, Real Madrid launched several attempts to lure Manchester United star midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo to Spain in spite of Ronaldo's valid contract until 2012. When Ronaldo signalled his desire to leave, Manchester United categorically declined his request. Blatter then said that "Manchester United were effectively indulging in 'modern slavery' by refusing their Portuguese winger a transfer to Real Madrid." These comments were met with outrage by the Manchester United side, UEFA and black players like Paul Parker, who criticised: "He obviously doesn't realise the significance of the term and it's insulting to all the people who have been real slaves through the ages - the guys who would get hung, drawn and quartered or beaten for being slaves rather than paid millions of pounds to play football." [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?xml=/sport/2008/07/11/sfnbla111.xml Cristiano Ronaldo agrees with Sepp Blatter that he is 'slave' to Manchester United] , www.telegraph.co.uk; July 11, 2008] Brazilian football legend Pele has since dismissed Blatter's comparisons and with slavery, and told Ronaldo to honour his contract, "If you have a contract then in any job you have to finish the contract...I think that when he finishes his contract, then he should be free to go wherever he wants to go." [ [http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,11667_3809871,00.html Pele criticises Blatter, tells Ronaldo to stay put] , www.skysports.co.uk; July 12, 2008] . English managers such as Harry Redknapp and Steve Bruce have also dismissed Blatter's statement, with Bruce saying that footballers have 'the best job in the world' and Redknapp saying that Blatter was 'way off beam with those comments'. [ [http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story?id=554740&cc=4716 Bruce rejects Blatter 'slavery' outburst] , www.soccernet.com; July 11, 2008]

The Telegraph has pointed out the discrepancy between Blatter's comments on the Ronaldo case and that of Andy Webster, who in 2007 breached his contract and left Heart of Midlothian to play for Wigan Athletic. Fifa ordered him to pay Hearts compensation of £625,000, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport was asked to rule on the case and reduced the payment to £150,000, which was the value of the remaining contract. Sepp Blatter severely criticised this due to the lack of a punitive element: "The decision which CAS took on 30 January, 2008, is very damaging for football and a Pyrrhic victory for those players and their agents, who toy with the idea of rescinding contracts before they have been fulfilled." [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?xml=/sport/2008/07/12/sfnmor112.xml Sepp Blatter, is this really slavery? - Telegraph ] ] He continued, "Because of this unfortunate decision, the principle of contractual stability, as agreed in 2001 with the European Commission as part of the new transfer regulations and which restored order to the transfer system, has been deemed less important than the short-term interests of the player involved." [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?xml=/sport/2008/07/12/sfnmor112.xml&page=2 Sepp Blatter, is this really slavery? - Telegraph ] ]

References

External links

* [http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/federation/president/index.html FIFA President's page on official website of FIFA]
* [http://playthegame.org/Knowledge%20bank/Articles/A_question_to_president_Blatter_about_bribes.aspx Excerpt from 'Foul' by Andrew Jennings]
* [http://observer.guardian.co.uk/sport/issues/story/0,,722262,00.html 2002 Observer article outlining criticism of Blatter]
* [http://time.com/time/europe/magazine/article/0,13005,901020527-238575,00.html TIME Europe article on Zen-Ruffinen's allegations]
* [http://edition.cnn.com/CNNI/Programs/revealed/blatter/ Sepp Blatter Revealed on CNN.com]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/b/birmingham_city/7284976.stm/ Outburst about Taylor challenge on Eduardo.]


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