(Reuters) - Leading figures from across European soccer voiced dismay on Wednesday over the latest scandal to engulf FIFA, the game’s powerful governing body, with many of them calling for its presidential election set for Friday to be postponed.
The world’s most popular sport was plunged into turmoil after U.S. and Swiss authorities announced inquiries into FIFA’s activities. Seven of the most powerful figures in the game face extradition to the United States on corruption charges after being arrested in Switzerland.
Wolfgang Niersbach, president of the German football federation (DFB), told reporters: “It is shocking and damaging for the (whole of) football what is going on in Zurich. It would be shocking if these serious allegations against FIFA members are correct.”
Niersbach is set to become a representative of UEFA on the FIFA Executive Committee on Friday.
His compatriot Reinhard Rauball, president of the German football league (DFL), said in a statement that Friday’s election, which had been expected to hand reigning president Sepp Blatter his fifth term in office, should be delayed.
“Today’s revelations exceed every level of imagination,” he said.
“It would be the absolutely wrong signal if under the impact of these developments the agenda of the FIFA Congress is processed as planned.
“One cannot just go over to the daily agenda. If these accusations turn out to be true then they would rock FIFA and the entire world football to its foundations.
“Sepp Blatter – while not personally affected – should do football a big service,” he added.
Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, the only candidate standing against Blatter, said it was “a sad day for football”.
Sportswear giant Adidas was the first of FIFA’s sponsors to express its shock at the news.
“We can ... only encourage FIFA to continue to establish and follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do.”
Swedish FA chairman Karl-Erik Nilsson said Blatter had to take some responsibility for FIFA “scoring own goal after own goal”.
“One gets completely depressed when FIFA is being chipped away at again. I think Blatter should draw his own conclusions about everything that has happened during his time as chairman.
“What I can say for certain is that we will not be voting for Blatter.”
French Federation president Noel Le Graet said, “It’s a shame that officials (by their actions) can cast doubt on organizations like FIFA, which is so important to world football.
“It’s incredible that people who rule federations are being suspected, even if we have to wait until the investigations are over.”
The English FA has been particularly disenchanted with FIFA ever since faring so badly in the vote to stage the 2018 World Cup. It will also be voting for Prince Ali on Friday.
Chairman Greg Dyke issued a statement saying, “We should stress this morning’s developments are very serious for FIFA and its current leadership.
“There must be a question mark over whether the election should take place in these circumstances. Clearly things are changing very quickly and our delegation to the FIFA congress in Zurich, which I am leading, will discuss the position and what we should do about it with our colleagues in UEFA.”
Later he told Sky Sports News: “It will be for Congress to decide whether it (the election) should go ahead.
“When I went to bed last night I thought it would be quite a boring Congress. Now I think it might be quite lively.”
Dyke was backed up by the Scottish Football Association, whose chief executive Stewart Regan called for Blatter to stand down.
“What has happened today underlines the need for fundamental change in how FIFA is governed,” he said in a statement on the SFA website (www.scottishfootballassociation.co.uk).
“We have stated before that we believe for the good of the game’s image, integrity and indeed future prosperity that Mr Blatter should stand down and allow FIFA to radically improve its governance and credibility. After today’s events, that position has crystallized still further.”
Former England striker Gary Lineker, leading scorer at the 1986 World Cup and long a critic of Blatter, was busy on Twitter, posting: “This is extraordinary! FIFA is imploding. The best thing that could possibly happen to the beautiful game.”
Earlier he tweeted: “There can’t be a more corrupt, deplorable organization on earth than FIFA. The house of cards is falling. Time for change!” and “If Blatter had even a crumb of dignity remaining, he’d walk away now.”
David Ginola, the former French international who briefly planned to stand against Blatter before withdrawing, was “not surprised” by the day’s events.
He told Sky Sports News: “There have been allegations for months and years towards FIFA. We need to know why they decided to give the World Cup to Qatar for example.
“I guess this morning is the start of something big.
“We will hopefully see in the next few years a new era among FIFA.”
But Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger warned: “Sometimes we are too quick to convict people who have not been proven guilty so you have to be very cautious on that.
“I’d prefer the whole inquiry is done well and that the rumors disappear. There’s nothing worse than rumors.”
Reporting by Steve Tongue; Editing by Hugh Lawson