MANCHESTER England (Reuters) - The prospect of Sepp Blatter continuing as FIFA president into his early 80s came a step nearer on Monday when he confirmed he was standing for a fifth term of office next year.
Blatter, who will be 79 when the votes are cast next June and who was first elected 16 years ago, confirmed his candidature for another term as president in a recorded interview transmitted to delegates at the Soccerex Global Convention.
“You see a mission is never finished and my mission is not finished,” he said in the 42-minute interview, adding that he would officially tell members of FIFA’s executive committee of his candidature in Zurich at the end of this month.
”I got (from) the last (FIFA) congress in Sao Paulo not only the impression but the support of the majority, a huge majority of national associations asking ‘Please go on, be our president also in future.’
”Now I would make an official declaration definitely in September (to stand).
“I will inform the executive committee. It’s a question of respect also to say then to the football family, ‘Yes I will be ready. I will be a candidate.'”
The news comes as little surprise as Blatter had dropped strong hints he would stand again and if he sees out his potential four-year term he will be 83 by the time of the next planned election in 2019.
In the last 40 years FIFA has had just two presidents. Joao Havelange ruled from 1974 until 1998 when Blatter, his former secretary general, took over.
Before the World Cup started in Brazil in June, five of FIFA’s six confederations - the exception being UEFA - gave Blatter their support to continue as president and it is almost inconceivable that he will not be re-elected when voting takes place at the FIFA Congress in Zurich next June.
Last month Michel Platini ended speculation about his bid for the presidency when he said he would not stand for election - instead he will seek another term as the president of European soccer’s ruling body, UEFA.
Blatter said he knew of Platini’s plans in advance of the Frenchman’s announcement in Monte Carlo on August 28.
“I was not surprised because in private conversations I have had with Michel Platini before during and after the World Cup he has confirmed he would not be a candidate, but that there would be a contender.”
“And I think he is a reliable man when he is not only speaking colleague to colleague but friend to friend even if we are not always at the same idea in football by saying he would not stand.”
Platini, a former long-time supporter of Blatter, said in June he no longer backed him as FIFA president and but UEFA has so far not put forward a candidate to stand against him.
The only other declared candidate is the former FIFA deputy secretary general Frenchman Jerome Champagne, although his campaign is independent of UEFA’s backing and might well be canceled now Blatter has declared his interest.
Blatter said that if he were re-elected he would like to give coaches the right to challenge refereeing decisions.
He first mooted the idea at the FIFA Congress in June, but expanded on it at Soccerex.
“I will propose it to the International Board (the game’s law-making body),” he said. “They (coaches) should have the right maybe once or twice in a half, the means to challenge a refereeing decision, but only when the game is stopped.”
Blatter also said he was confident that the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar would both go ahead as scheduled and that calls from some European bureaucrats to boycott the World Cup in Russia or remove it from the country because of the crisis in Ukraine were misguided.
”We are monitoring that situation but not interfering,“ he said. ”For the time being we are strong to maintain the organization of the World Cup in Russia and in Qatar in 2022.
”Concerning the one in 2018, in Russia. There are already some voices coming out about 2018 talking about a boycott – a boycott in sport never has had any benefit.
“Let us wait and see the geo-political situation and FIFA shall not intervene with politics. But for the time being we are working with Russia. I have been there three weeks ago and I have had the report on the stadium work they are doing and they are on a route.”
Concerning Qatar, he re-iterated the World Cup would not be played in the summer heat of 2022 but emphasized that no new date had yet been fixed.
Regarding the allegations of corruption surrounding the 2022 World Cup decision taken in December 2010, he said: ”We still await the report of FIFA’s ethics committee who have made an in-depth investigation and we are awaiting the results of this, this month or next month.
“In the rotation of the World Cup it was obvious that one day we should give the World Cup to the Arabic world. It was a decision taken by a democratic vote now we have to make the best of it in order to show a small country can also host the World Cup -- but it is a challenge.”
Editing by Ossian Shine