FIFA president Sepp Blatter announces his resignation. Why now?

In the face of a corruption scandal around world soccer’s governing organization, FIFA president Sepp Blatter declared that he is stepping down.

Steffen Schmidt/Keystone via AP/File
In this Friday, Nov. 19, 2010 file photo FIFA President Sepp Blatter pauses during a press conference following a meeting of the Executive Committee in Zurich, Switzerland. FIFA President Sepp Blatter will resign from soccer's governing body amid a widening corruption scandal and promised Tuesday to call for fresh elections to choose a successor.

In a dramatic decision Tuesday, FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced that he is stepping down from his post amid allegations of corruption within the organization.

Mr. Blatter’s resignation comes less than a week after Swiss authorities raided a hotel in Zurich and arrested several FIFA officials on corruption charges. Despite the controversy, Blatter was re-elected for his fifth term two days later, making his latest announcement all the more surprising.

“Why has Sepp Blatter resigned as FIFA president? That’s the question that pretty much everybody is asking,” The Guardian’s Gregg Bakowski wrote as he live-tweeted updates.

The straight answer, for now, remains elusive. In his announcement, Blatter said that he pushed forward with Friday’s election because he believed it was best for the organization, though he didn’t elaborate how.

He went on:

While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football – the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at FIFA.

Therefore, I have decided to lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective Congress. I will continue to exercise my functions as FIFA president until that election.

He urged the organization’s executive committee to hold an election for his successor prior to the scheduled FIFA Congress next May. In the meantime, Blatter added, he plans to focus on “driving far-reaching, fundamental reforms that transcend our previous efforts.”

“We need deep-rooted structural change,” he said.

Blatter started working at FIFA in 1975 and has been president of the organization since 1998. Last Wednesday, the US Department of Justice released a 47-count indictment that included racketeering conspiracy and corruption, accusing nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives, ABC News reported. Among those caught in the net were current FIFA vice presidents Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner.

Public reaction to Blatter's announcement has varied from joy to sarcasm to skepticism. Grant Wahl, senior writer for Sports Illustrated, questioned whether Blatter’s resignation would lead to any real change within FIFA, while Gary Neville, coach for the English national soccer team, kept his remarks brief.

Others’ responses were a little less serious.

Following Blatter’s announcement, FIFA released a statement on its website, saying that its ethics committee would continue to ensure compliance with the organization’s code of ethics, regardless of who was president.

“The body’s independence from the President, regardless of who is exercising this function, is a key part of good corporate governance,” the statement reads.

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