Ecclestone defends Blatter, supports Putin

Fri Oct 16, 2015 1:40pm EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has defended Sepp Blatter's record as FIFA president and questioned why the 79-year-old Swiss should have to step down from the scandal-mired soccer body.

In an interview with state-funded Russian TV network RT, the 84-year-old also declared himself the "best supporter" of Russian president Vladimir Putin, spoke out against democracy and said he was "not very enthusiastic about America".

"I don't think he should ever have stepped down," Ecclestone said of Blatter, who has been in office for 18 years and been suspended for 90 days amid the worst corruption scandal in FIFA's history.

"And I don't think he should have ever been challenged.

"It's because of him we have a lot of countries throughout the world that are now playing football and if these people allegedly have been corrupted to make things happen in their country, it's good. It's a tax that football have had to pay."

Blatter, who took the World Cup to Africa for the first time, was re-elected in May but then succumbed to an international outcry and is due to step down in February.

Ecclestone faced bribery allegations of his own in a German court last year, eventually paying a $100 million settlement to avoid a lengthy trial and preserve his innocence.

The diminutive billionaire is no stranger to controversial comments, causing a storm in 2009 when he told a newspaper interviewer that Adolf Hitler was someone who was "able to get things done".   Continued...

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone speaks to the media at the paddock area ahead of the Russian F1 Grand Prix in Sochi, Russia, October 9, 2015. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov