FIFA's Blatter says attacks from sponsors politically motivated

Fri Oct 30, 2015 2:29pm EDT
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By Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) - Embattled soccer boss Sepp Blatter has rejected complaints made by the sport's biggest sponsors over a bribery and corruption scandal, saying they were politically motivated and made at the behest of the United States.

Blatter has been suspended from FIFA as part of the fall-out from a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into bribery, money-laundering and wire fraud at the sport's governing body.

The 79-year-old had initially been set to remain in his post until next year, despite a string of arrests of top FIFA officials, until a group of major sponsors issued coordinated calls for him to go. Blatter was suspended a few days later.

"It is the American companies," Blatter told the Financial Times in an interview in a reference to sponsors including Coca-Cola Co, McDonald's, Visa, and Budweiser owner Anheuser-Busch InBev.

"The other companies haven’t said anything. So you are intelligent enough to make the connection with American companies and the American investigation. I do not need to underline that."

FIFA, which Blatter ran for 17 years, is engulfed in the biggest scandal of its history, with 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives indicted by the United States.

Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini are both serving 90-day suspensions imposed by FIFA's Ethics Committee, which is looking into a 2 million Swiss franc ($2.03 million) payment Blatter made to Platini in 2011 - a case that is also part of a separate Swiss criminal investigation.

The interview with the FT is the second Blatter has given this week after he also spoke to Russian news agency TASS. In that interview Blatter revealed that he had planned for Russia and the United States to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.   Continued...

Sepp Blatter speaks during a news conference  in Zurich, Switzerland July 20, 2015. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann