Sepp Blatter is a Swiss sports executive who was the president of FIFA from 1998 to 2015, the governing organisation of international football most known for overseeing the World Cup. Massive corporate profits and the rise of football in developing areas, as well as systemic corruption and graft, were the hallmarks of Blatter’s term.
- His working life
Before joining FIFA as technical director in 1975, he worked in public relations for the tourism authority of the Swiss canton of Valais and for the watchmaker Longines. In 1981, Blatter was promoted to FIFA Secretary General, functioning as the right-hand man of long-standing President Joo Havelange. When Havelange resigned in 1998 over allegations of corruption, Blatter was elected FIFA president. Blatter reigned with an authoritarian approach as president, cementing football’s position as the world’s most popular sport.
For the first time in football history, the world championship was staged in two countries while Josef Blatter’s presidency of FIFA. This occurred in 2002, and the competition was hosted by South Korea and Japan at the time.
The Swiss have long been opposed to major changes in football rules. He was particularly opposed to the adoption of video replay. But it was this man who pioneered the goal-fixing technique, which was put to the test during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
- All about the scandal
In 2007, and again in 2011, Blatter ran unopposed for the position, despite allegations that South Africa paid $10 million to secure the right to host the 2010 World Cup. Bribery and fraud were accused of giving the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals to Russia and Qatar, respectively, as early as 2011. Outside of sports, people began to see FIFA as a money-making venture with only a tangential interest in the game’s well-being.
In 2011, a new scandal erupted, this time involving money. Everything transpired on the eve of FIFA’s next president election, when Sepp Blatter’s competitor, Mohammed bin Hammam, accused him of being involved in corruption schemes. The strategy did not work out. The opponent remained unemployed, and the Swiss were re-elected for another term.
But arguably the most vocal was the debate of 2015, when a small group of people questioned the legality of Russia and Qatar being chosen as host countries for the 2018 and 2022 World Championships, respectively. The Americans were the primary initiators of the proceedings.
In the worldwide probe, which encompassed $150 million in suspected bribes and kickbacks, it was also disclosed that four additional officers and two firms had already pled guilty. Despite the arrests, Blatter was re-elected by nearly a two-thirds majority of the 209-member FIFA body two days later. However, as the corruption scandal and public outcry against Blatter’s reelection grew in intensity in the days ahead, Blatter requested for a special session of the FIFA congress to be conducted, pledging to leave after his replacement was chosen by the congress.
Following the disclosure of further investigations into Blatter, FIFA’s ethics committee suspended him for 90 days in 2015, and Issa Hayatou was appointed acting president. Blatter was found guilty of ethics infractions two months later and banned from all football-related activity for eight years. He appealed the sentence, and FIFA’s appeals committee lowered the ban to six years in February 2016.