Top official leaves FIFA as EU urges Blatter to go now

Thu Jun 11, 2015 3:55pm EDT
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By Katharina Bart

ZURICH (Reuters) - FIFA's director of communications Walter de Gregorio is to resign after making a joke on television about the scandal-hit soccer body, while pressure mounted for his boss Sepp Blatter to step aside at once.

The European Parliament said Blatter's failure to depart immediately would block efforts to rid FIFA of rampant corruption.

The FIFA president announced his resignation last week as U.S. and Swiss authorities widened their investigations into bribery and corruption at the sport's global governing body, but he is still at his desk.

EU lawmakers heaped pressure on Blatter, 79, voting in favor of an eight-page resolution with a series of demands to clean up soccer.

The resolution -- non-binding but still indicative of public opinion in Europe -- welcomed Blatter's decision to resign, but expressed "serious concern" that he might stay on for a further nine months before a new leader is appointed.

The election to find a replacement for Blatter will take place in Zurich between December and February, FIFA announced, with the exact date decided at an executive committee meeting on July 20.

The soap opera at FIFA took another turn when it announced that De Gregorio was leaving two days after making a joke at FIFA's expense on a Swiss chat show.

The Swiss-Italian, who had taken up his role September 2011, had become a prominent figure within FIFA as a mouthpiece for the organization, appearing in public debates and on television.   Continued...

Sepp Blatter addresses a news conference at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland June 2, 2015. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich