GENEVA (Reuters) - Sepp Blatter may seek to stay on as the president of FIFA, a Swiss newspaper reported on Sunday, less than two weeks after Blatter said he would step down over a major corruption scandal at the organization.
However, Domenico Scala, the official overseeing the process of choosing a new president, said that Blatter’s departure was an “indispensable” part of planned reforms to soccer’s governing body.
Blatter is under pressure to step down for good as U.S. and Swiss authorities widened their investigations into bribery and corruption at the sport’s global governing body. EU lawmakers are among those calling for his immediate departure.
But according to the Schweiz am Sonntag newspaper, Blatter had received messages of support from African and Asian football associations, asking him to rethink his decision to step down.
Blatter was honored by the support and had not ruled out remaining in office, the newspaper said, citing an anonymous source close to him.
Blatter said on June 2 he would step down as FIFA president in the wake of the corruption investigation, having led soccer’s world governing body since 1998,, although he would stay on until a successor was elected.
FIFA, in an emailed statement, referred Reuters to the speech Blatter made on June 2 and said they had “no further comment to make”.
In his speech, Blatter said: “I have decided to lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective Congress. I will continue to exercise my functions as FIFA President until that election.”
He also added: “Since I shall not be a candidate, and am therefore now free from the constraints that elections inevitably impose, I shall be able to focus on driving far-reaching, fundamental reforms that transcend our previous efforts.”
But Scala, head of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee, said in a statement that Blatter needed to stick by his pledge that he would not stand again.
“For me, the reforms are the central topic,” he said, without referring to the interview directly.
“That is why I think it is clearly indispensable to follow through with the initiated process of president’s change as has been announced. “
Blatter has changed his mind in the past. When he began his fourth mandate in 2011, he said it would be his last, but he later backed down, stood again and was re-elected in May.
FIFA is expected to pick his replacement at an extraordinary congress in Zurich between December and February.. The exact date will be decided by an executive committee meeting on July 20.
Blatter’s renewed interest in the job was also a reason for the departure of Walter de Gregorio as FIFA’s director of communications, since he had argued for a completely new start and advised Blatter to go, the Swiss newspaper said.
De Gregorio declined to comment to the newspaper.
Reporting by Tom Miles; Additional reporting by Brian Homewood in Bern; Editing by John Pickering and Raissa Kasolowsky