ZURICH (Reuters) - The leadership of crisis-hit world football governing body FIFA gathered at their Zurich headquarters on Monday to set a date for the vote to replace outgoing president Sepp Blatter.
Blatter and other top officials from around the world began an extraordinary executive committee meeting to set the timetable for a congress to vote on their next leader.
Also on the agenda are early plans for reforms in response to corruption scandals which have rocked FIFA.
Blatter and his general secretary Jerome Valcke will address the media following the meeting - the first time the president has faced the press since announcing he would stand down.
The organization was left reeling before it’s May congress after a dawn raid at a five-star Zurich hotel where seven officials, including FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb, were arrested.
On Saturday in New York, Webb pleaded not guilty to a range of charges including racketeering, money-laundering and fraud and was released on a $10 million bail.
FIFA is under investigation from the U.S. Department of Justice as well as Swiss authorities, and also faces growing pressure from top sponsors, such as Coca Cola and McDonald’s who have urged major changes.
The organization insists it is taking the need to reform seriously and is co-operating with investigators, but for many critics those claims will be greeted with scepticism until the man who has ruled the body since 1998 is replaced.
Blatter was re-elected for a fifth term at the congress but then announced on June 2 that he would lay down his mandate at the ‘extraordinary elective congress’ which will likely be held between December and February.
The 79-year-old has repeatedly said that he will not stand again and while he has reneged on that promise before, saying his election in 2011 was his last before changing his mind, it would be a major surprise if he made another u-turn.
With FIFA rules stating candidates need to announce their intention to run four months ahead of a vote, the focus will quickly turn to who intends to run for the most powerful job in world soccer.
In May’s vote Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al Hussein was beaten by Blatter but he has yet to indicate if he will run again, while it remains unclear if UEFA’s French president Michel Platini will stand.
Pressure groups such as Transparency International will be keen to learn about FIFA’s reform plans on Monday having urged them to allow an independent, third-party, commission to handle the process.
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by