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May 28, 2015 12:33 PM

THE LATEST: Blatter decries 'shame' brought by soccer probe

The Associated Press

ZURICH (AP) The Latest on FIFA developments:

6:00 p.m. (1800 GMT, 12:00 EDT)

FIFA President Sepp Blatter says an American federal probe into soccer corruption brings "shame and humiliation" upon the sport.

Blatter blamed the "actions of individuals" and said "it has to be stopped now" to prevent FIFA's reputation from being "dragged through the mud."

Though Blatter told FIFA's 209 member federations Thursday that events "demand change from us all," he said he intends to continue leading FIFA through its problems.

American and Swiss authorities are pursuing separate federal investigations, respectively, into racketeering and the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting votes.

"I know many people hold me ultimately responsible for the actions and reputation of the global football community, whether it's a decision for the hosting of a World Cup or a corruption scandal," Blatter said. "We, or I, cannot monitor everyone all of the time. If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it."

He said he had a responsibility "for the reputation and well-being of our organization and to find the way forward to fix things."

Blatter says he expects more bad news to follow.

The FIFA chief tells his voters ahead of Friday's presidential election that soccer officials work "not for greed, not for exploit(ation), not for power but because of love for the game."


6:00 p.m. (1800 GMT, 12:00 EDT)

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said football in her country "will only benefit" from the corruption investigation centering on FIFA and other top officials in the sport.

The comments on Thursday come after Brazilian soccer was hit hard by the announcement of the investigation a day earlier, with some of its top officials accused of wrongdoing and a major sponsorship deal involving the national team linked to kickbacks and bribery.

Brazil's football confederation is now re-evaluating its contracts with its commercial partners, and a congressional probe into how local soccer is run is in the works.


5:00 p.m. (1500 GMT; 11:00 a.m. EDT)

Sepp Blatter has arrived at the FIFA Congress opening ceremony, making his first public appearance in two days.

The FIFA president did not respond to questions asking why he has not resigned after American and Swiss federal corruption investigations rocked world soccer on Wednesday.

Blatter defied a face-to-face demand Thursday from FIFA vice president Michel Platini to resign ahead of Friday's presidential election.

Instead, the 79-year-old FIFA chief will go ahead to a contest against Prince Ali of Jordan.

Blatter was set to make a congress opening speech to the 209 FIFA member federations who will vote Friday.


5:00 p.m. (1500 GMT; 11:00 a.m. EDT)

The head of Denmark's football association says he believes the votes could be lining up for Jordan's Prince Ali to pull off a surprise victory and wrest the FIFA presidency from Sepp Blatter.

Jesper Moller, head of the DBU football association, told Danish news agency Ritzau that he believes most of FIFA's 209 member federations will back the Jordanian royal against its Swiss longtime president in Friday's vote.

Referring to the European football governing body, many of whose members support Ali, Moller said: "My feeling is that most of the UEFA backs Prince Ali. That is around 50 votes ... and there are rumors going around that Prince Ali should be getting some 60 votes outside the UEFA area."

Many observers believe that Blatter is likely to win, but his leadership has come under intensified criticism after U.S. authorities announced charges Wednesday against 14 people in a corruption probe in football and Swiss authorities arrested seven high-ranking people in the sport in Zurich.


5:00 p.m. (1500 GMT; 11:00 a.m. EDT)

South Africa's sports minister has denied any wrongdoing by his country's government in its 2010 World Cup bid. Fikile Mbalula said: "We've got no reasons to have sleepless nights."

Mbalula was speaking Thursday at South Africa's Olympic committee headquarters in Johannesburg after the successful bid to host the first World Cup in Africa was implicated in bribery allegations in the U.S. Department of Justice's probe into corruption in world soccer.

One of the allegations was that the South African government and a bid official may have proposed a $10-million payment to former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner to secure his vote, and the votes of two other executive committee members. South Africa beat Morocco 14-10 in the May 2004 FIFA vote.

Mbalula, who wasn't in office at the time of the bid, said the South African government had "no business" with Warner. He also said the government hadn't seen the full indictment papers from the U.S.


3:50 p.m. (1350 GMT, 9:50 EDT)

UEFA President Michel Platini says some European countries might pull out of FIFA and the World Cup if Sepp Blatter wins a fifth term as FIFA president.

Speaking at a news conference in Zurich, Platini said through a translator that the European football body will be "open to all options" but insisted that he opposes a boycott of FIFA even if longtime president Blatter beats Prince Ali of Jordan in Friday's election.

Platini says he expects that a majority of European countries at least 45 will vote for the Jordanian royal in the 209-nation election after UEFA backed down from a threat to boycott the FIFA Congress.

Platini said he told Blatter directly in a meeting on Thursday morning to stand down before the ballot but the FIFA chief refused.

Platini lamented "too many scandals" and said "FIFA doesn't deserve to be treated that way."

With FIFA engulfed by a corruption scandal prompted by an investigation by U.S. authorities announced Wednesday, Platini said that Ali "doesn't need money because he is a prince."


3:50 p.m. (1350 GMT, 9:50 EDT)

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko says the FIFA scandal will have no effect on his country's plans to host the 2018 World Cup.

Speaking to Russian television in Zurich, Mutko said: "Our bidding was conducted in a fair manner. Russia is not involved in corruption, everything was above board."

Mutko denied speculation that he had been summoned for questioning in Zurich in connection with the alleged corruption case.


2:50 p.m. (1250 GMT, 8:50 EDT)

European soccer nations say they will not boycott the FIFA congress, where Sepp Blatter is up for re-election as president.

Football Association of Ireland chief executive John Delaney says UEFA backed down from its threatened boycott on Thursday, hours before the start of the congress.

Delaney also says English Football Association vice chairman David Gill will reject his seat on the FIFA executive committee if Blatter wins on Friday.

Gill was to replace Jim Boyce in holding the vice presidency guaranteed for British nations.


2:50 p.m. (1250 GMT, 8:50 EDT)

The embattled CONCACAF soccer body says it wants the FIFA presidential election to go ahead Friday.

The North American regional body says its 35 FIFA voters are "unanimous that the election should go forward as planned."

FIFA President Sepp Blatter is favored to win re-election against Prince Ali of Jordan.

European body UEFA has urged postponing the election for six months because of the turmoil rocking FIFA.

CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb, a FIFA vice president from the Cayman Islands, and Costa Rica soccer leader Eduardo Li were among several seven high-ranking soccer officials arrested Wednesday at a luxury Zurich hotel.

American federal agencies investigating bribery and racketeering in world soccer are seeking their extradition.

Li was set to formally join the FIFA executive committee on Friday.


2:50 p.m. (1250 GMT, 8:50 EDT)

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says that if organizations like FIFA can't fix themselves, then governments may have to step in.

"If football wants to set an example then clarity is urgently needed," he told reporters on a trip to Lisbon Thursday. "If football can't clean itself up, then national authorities will have to do the job."


1:30 p.m. (1130 GMT, 7:30 a.m. EDT)

The Confederation of African Football has repeated its backing for Sepp Blatter and wants the FIFA presidential election to go ahead on Friday.

CAF's statement on Thursday followed one by the Asian Football Confederation also pledging its support for Blatter and saying the election should take place as scheduled.

Following a meeting Wednesday in Zurich, CAF said it "opposes any postponement" of the election, and "reiterated its support for the candidacy of Sepp Blatter."

FIFA is facing calls to postpone the election after FIFA executives were arrested to face racketeering charges from the United States Department of Justice.

CAF, which is led by senior FIFA Vice President Issa Hayatou, said it "is following with particular attention the events that occur at this time in the football family."


1:30 p.m. (1130 GMT, 7:30 EDT)

FIFA's ethics committee has suspended American marketing executive Aaron Davidson from all soccer duties after he was named in a federal racketeering case.

Davidson, who is president of Traffic Sports USA, was indicted on financial corruption charges Wednesday.

He is also chairman of the North American Soccer League, which suspended him Wednesday.

Traffic Sports owns the Carolina RailHawks team, based in Cary, North Carolina.

Traffic Sports USA Inc. and Traffic Sports International Inc. are the two corporate defendants that the U.S. Department of Justice said pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy.


1:30 p.m. (1130 GMT, 7:30 EDT)

David Cameron's office says the British prime minister supports calls for Sepp Blatter to resign as FIFA president after corruption charges against several senior officials at soccer's governing body.

Downing Street says Cameron is "foursquare behind" Prince Ali of Jordan to replace Blatter. FIFA's presidential vote is due Friday, though there have been calls for it to be postponed because of the criminal investigation.

Officials say Britain is not demanding a rerun of bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Britain bid unsuccessfully to host the 2018 tournament, which was awarded to Russia.

British Sports Secretary John Whittingdale said: "I think it is too soon to say there should be a re-running of the (2018) competition," adding that Britain would wait to see the outcome of the criminal investigations.


12:30 p.m. (1030 GMT, 6:30 a.m. EDT)

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has chaired an emergency meeting with continental soccer bodies, while staying out of public view himself.

Blatter called together leaders of FIFA's six regions Thursday as world soccer is rocked by a U.S. federal racketeering case.

FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer says Blatter met with representatives from soccer's confederations "to discuss the current situation."

Blatter is resisting calls from European soccer body UEFA to postpone Friday's FIFA presidential election by six months. He is also avoiding appearing in public.

Blatter missed giving a scheduled speech to open a session of FIFA's medical conference in a Zurich hotel his third skipped public appearance within 24 hours.


12:30 p.m. (1030 GMT, 6:30 a.m. EDT)

Britain's sports minister says FIFA President Sepp Blatter must resign over corruption allegations in world soccer's governing body.

Culture, Media and Sport Secretary John Whittingdale said Thursday that "change in the leadership of FIFA is very badly needed."

Whittingdale said major sponsors should follow Visa and review their links with FIFA in the wake of corruption charges against senior FIFA officials.

"This is merely the latest sorry episode which suggests that FIFA is a deeply flawed and corrupt organization," Whittingdale told lawmakers in the House of Commons on Thursday.

Whittingdale said he was sure British fraud authorities would investigate whether any of the corruption took place on U.K. soil.


11:30 a.m. (0930 GMT, 5:30 a.m. EDT)

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the United States is meddling in FIFA's affairs in an attempt to take the 2018 World Cup away from his country.

Putin said in televised comments Thursday that it is "odd" that the probe was launched at the request of U.S. officials for crimes which do not involve its citizens and did not happen in the United States." Two of the 14 people charged by U.S. prosecutors have U.S. citizenship.

In a separate probe, Swiss prosecutors are investigating the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

Putin said he is aware of "the pressure" on Sepp Blatter for his support of Russia hosting the World Cup.

Putin described Wednesday's pre-dawn arrests of seven soccer officials in Zurich as "yet another evident attempt to derail Mr. Blatter's re-election as FIFA president."


11:30 a.m. (0930 GMT, 5:30 a.m. EDT)

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius supports the idea of delaying FIFA's election scheduled for Friday given the current corruption scandal.

Senior FIFA officials were among seven men arrested in Zurich as part of a U.S. federal racketeering case. FIFA's headquarters in Zurich were also raided by Swiss federal police for a separate probe of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.

Fabius said on France-Inter radio Thursday, "There have been accusations of corruption for years." Asked if the election should be delayed, he said, "That would seem to make sense."


9 a.m. (0700 GMT, 3 a.m. EDT)

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has cancelled another speaking engagement as he avoids appearing in public for a second day.

FIFA says Blatter will not give a scheduled speech to open Thursday's session of a soccer medical conference in a Zurich hotel.

Blatter skipped two meetings of continental soccer organizations on Wednesday. He typically would attend those ahead of Friday's annual congress of FIFA's 209 member federations.

The FIFA president would usually follow protocol and attend the UEFA meeting scheduled 12:30 p.m. (1030 GMT) Thursday.

However, UEFA leaders want to postpone the presidential election amid turmoil in world soccer after federal investigations by the United States and Swiss authorities hit FIFA on Wednesday.

UEFA is supporting Blatter's election opponent, FIFA vice president Prince Ali of Jordan.


9:00 a.m. (0700 GMT, 03:00 a.m. EDT)

World Cup sponsor Visa has made its strongest call yet for FIFA to act against corruption in world soccer, warning it could leave a deal that runs through 2022.

Ahead of Friday's presidential election, Visa said it expected FIFA "to take swift and immediate steps to address these issues within its organization."

"Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship," Visa said.

The statement responded to the arrests Wednesday of seven officials in Zurich as part of a U.S. federal investigation of racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud.

Visa re-signed with FIFA last year to cover the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, hosted by Russia and Qatar respectively.

The value of top-tier FIFA sponsor deals is not disclosed. It was valued at around $100 million for the 2014 tournament.

Visa signed in 2007 after FIFA's former financial services partner Mastercard sued for breach of contract.

FIFA paid $90 million to settle that case after a New York judge criticized its business ethics.


4:30 a.m. (0230 GMT, 10:30 p.m. EDT)

The Asian Football Confederation says it still supports Sepp Blatter's bid for another term as FIFA president, and opposes any move to delay Friday's scheduled elections in the wake of a string of corruption arrests of some of the federation's top officials.

In a statement on its website Thursday, the AFC expressed its "disappointment and sadness" at Wednesday's events but also said it "reiterates its decision taken at the AFC Congress in Sao Paulo in 2014 ... to support FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter."

The European federation, UEFA, had called for the elections in Zurich to be postponed due to the arrests and allegations, but the AFC said it was "opposing any delay."

Blatter is seeking a fifth, four-year term in Friday's election. His opponent is Prince Ali of Jordan.


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