Blatter does not rule out staying beyond February, says confidant

Tue Sep 29, 2015 2:52pm EDT
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By Simon Evans

ZURICH (Reuters) - Sepp Blatter has not ruled out trying to stay on as FIFA’s president beyond February’s scheduled election, despite facing a criminal investigation and a possible internal ethics probe, a close confidant told Reuters on Tuesday.

The scenario where Blatter would try to stay on appears far-fetched, and an ethics investigation could lead to his suspension from the game before the election even begins.

But the comments from Blatter’s former public relations adviser Klaus Stoehlker offer an insight into the embattled FIFA president’s thinking.

The Swiss attorney general's office (OAG) opened criminal proceedings against Blatter on Friday, saying he was suspected of making a "disloyal payment" of 2 million Swiss francs ($2.04 million) to Michael Platini.

A 2005 television rights contract which Blatter signed on behalf of FIFA with the Caribbean Football Union is also part of the investigation, the OAG said.

Blatter announced in June, following the indictment of 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives, that he would “give back his mandate” at a special elective congress on Feb. 26.

However Stoehlker said the 79-year-old did not put that formally in writing at any stage.

“About 10 days ago he gave an in-house conference at FIFA and he said to everyone there, ‘we don’t know what will happen on February 26 but when there will be no candidate elected, I (will) feel obligated to stay’,” said Stoehlker.   Continued...

FIFA President Sepp Blatter arrives for a news conference aside of the so-called "Sepp Blatter tournament" in Blatter's home-town Ulrichen, Switzerland, August 22, 2015. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse