(Reuters) - FIFA president Sepp Blatter says he can handle the personal criticism he has faced over the organization’s corruption troubles but has “no responsibility” over the body’s executive committee.
In his column in the FIFA Weekly magazine, to be published on Friday, Blatter says the upcoming election to replace him is a “sideshow” but reforms are needed because FIFA’s “future is at stake”.
FIFA was thrown into turmoil when 14 sports marketing executives and soccer officials, including several from Zurich-based FIFA, were indicted by the United States Department of Justice in late May on bribery, money-laundering and wire fraud charges.
Among those indicted were FIFA vice-presidents Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands and Uruguayan Eugenio Figueredo, who have both been suspended, and former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago.
Also indicted was Costa Rican Edoardo Li, who had been elected to the FIFA executive committee, FIFA development officer Julio Rocha of Nicaragua and former executive committee member Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay.
“The popular outrage concerning FIFA in recent weeks has mainly been directed at me personally. I have no problem with this. I can defend myself,” wrote Blatter in the column.
“However, I would appeal for fairness: I bear no responsibility for members of a government (the FIFA Executive Committee) I have not myself elected.
“The FIFA President must work with the people allotted him by the confederations. I therefore also bear no responsibility whatsoever for the behavior of these ExCo members on their home turf,” he added.
Blatter said that while much focus was on the election to replace him, he viewed the reform process at FIFA as more important.
“Filling the office of President is ultimately only a sideshow, albeit staged in a glaring spotlight. I hope the Congress is not blinded by this, because FIFA’s future is at stake, no more and no less,” wrote Blatter.
“In European circles there is only one topic: the presidential election.
“However, the reforms we have not yet been able to implement are in fact more important. This requires a clear statement of intent on the part of the Executive Committee and Congress.
“We need to change structures so they are above reproach,” he added, repeating his call for independent integrity checks, the election of the executive by congress and term limits.
Blatter also took a shot at his critics in European football’s governing body UEFA.
“To this day, the UEFA has no ethics committee, and the German association has no ethics committee,” he noted.
Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by Andrew Roche