In Depth

Sepp Blatter: why he quit and what next for Fifa and Qatar

News of Blatter's unexpected departure could raise as many questions as it answers for Fifa


Sepp Blatter's decision to step down as president of Fifa has been hailed as "brilliant news" by FA chairman Greg Dyke, but the shock announcement is only the start for football's governing body as the corruption probes continue.

And Blatter's sudden volte face, four days after winning an unprecedented fifth term in office despite the arrest of seven senior officials and two criminal investigations raises almost as many questions as it answers.

What happened?

Few people saw Blatter's resignation coming, but the 79-year-old Swiss made the shock announcement at a hastily arranged press conference in Zurich on Tuesday evening.

It was called following new allegations about a $10m payment from South Africa to senior Fifa official Jack Warner, then head of Concacaf, in 2008. US investigators believe it was a bribe for World Cup votes and said Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke had, albeit unwittingly, authorised it.

Fifa initially dismissed the claim, but the press conference was called soon after a letter addressed to Valcke instructing him to make the payment was made public.

Blatter did not mention the letter in his statement, but announced that he was stepping down. "I will organise extraordinary congress for a replacement for me as president," he said. "I will not stand."

Why now?

The million-dollar question. On Friday Blatter was preparing for another four years in charge at Fifa, despite twin corruption probes and an increasing clamour for him to resign. What has changed since then?

The letter that emerged yesterday is significant as it places Blatter's closest aide in the sights of the FBI. Owen Gibson of The Guardian says Blatter was finally becoming aware of "the scale and magnitude of the case being built up by the FBI and the US justice department" while his inner circle warned him that "walls were closing in".

"His daughter Corinne is believed to have encouraged him to stand down," says Gibson. "Nor can he have been unaware of the fact that those closest to him over four decades at Fifa were being picked off one by one."

What's more, the New York Times claims the FBI has been trying to "build a case" against Blatter himself. Reuters also makes the same claim.

So when will he go?

Not yet. Fifa's emergency congress cannot be convened until December at the earliest, so he will remain in charge for several months. It may not happen until March next year.

He has given himself "a final six to nine months in which to dispatch enemies, settle scores and attempt to pass the organisation on to a chosen successor," says Gibson. "Whether the FBI will afford him that privilege remains to be seen."

Who will replace him?

Another hot potato. Blatter's only challenger in last week's election was Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan, so he would appear to be the obvious candidate. However, his resignation could prompt what The Times calls "a scramble to succeed him".

Uefa president Michel Platini is touted as a credible alternative, and "significantly", according to the Times, he has the support of the Russian Football Union, due to host the 2018 World Cup.

Other former footballers are also in the frame. Luis Figo withdrew from the last presidential race but could be tempted to stand again. He certainly has more "gravitas" than David Ginola, says the BBC, even though the Frenchman has already announced his intention to stand. From South America Diego Maradona and Zico have also been touted as possible leaders.

Michael van Praag president of the Dutch football federation pulled out of the race and backed Prince Ali last week, but he could be interested in running again, as could former Fifa executive Jerome Champagne, who had hoped to challenge Blatter in this year's election but could not drum up enough support.

"Who is to say yet more candidates will not come forward, emboldened by the impending departure of a man who for so long looked untouchable at the summit of world football?" asks the BBC.

What does it mean for Qatar?

"If I was the organisers of the Qatar World Cup, I wouldn't sleep well tonight," said FA chairman Greg Dyke after news of Blatter's departure broke.

The Gulf state was not amused and urged the FA chief to "concentrate on delivering his promise to build an England team capable of winning the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar". It also chose the day after Blatter's resignation to rubbish reports of 1,200 deaths among migrant workers building stadia for the tournament. It said the claims made by the Washington Post were "completely untrue".

However, with a criminal investigation into the vote on hosting the 2018 and 2022 World Cups underway, the winners – Russia and Qatar – are right to feel nervous.

"While Russia may feel that it is now too close to the 2018 tournament to change the host nation, Qatar – which has been mired in controversy over the deaths and working conditions of migrant workers building its stadiums will feel far more vulnerable," says the Daily Telegraph.

The US lost out to Qatar in the 2022 World Cup vote, which may have prompted the FBI corruption probe, but many believe they may now get a second bite at the cherry.

"Any sweeping reforms through soccer's governing body, such as those promised in the wake of Blatter's revelation about his impending departure, would be incomplete without a full review and probable re-vote on the 2022 World Cup hosting site," says USA Today.

However, changing the venues would be a massive decision. "Russia and Qatar will have huge legal claims against Fifa if the tournaments are removed from them and the votes re-run, without solid evidence that their bids, not Fifa's own executives, were corrupt," says the Guardian.


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