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FIFA Update: Europe's UEFA Backs Blatter's Opponent; Raids In Brazil

UEFA President Michel Platini says his organization is backing FIFA President Sepp Blatter's opponent in Friday's presidential election. When asked if UEFA might consider leaving FIFA, Platini said, "Of course."
AFP/Getty Images
UEFA President Michel Platini says his organization is backing FIFA President Sepp Blatter's opponent in Friday's presidential election. When asked if UEFA might consider leaving FIFA, Platini said, "Of course."

One day after a string of bribery arrests and indictments was revealed to center on FIFA, the soccer organization's president, Sepp Blatter, says he will not resign. Accusations of rampant corruption at FIFA emerged just two days before Blatter is set to stand for re-election.

The dozens of criminal charges unveiled Wednesday have stoked long-simmering suspicions about corruption in soccer's governing body. On Thursday, the leader of Europe's umbrella soccer organization, UEFA, said many of its member associations will support the lone challenger to Blatter in Friday's election, Jordan's Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein.

"Enough is enough," UEFA President Michel Platini said. He added, "I am disgusted."

UEFA's announcement came after its call to postpone the vote was rebuffed.

Speaking about Blatter, Platini said at a news conference Thursday that "he already lost. FIFA already lost."

When he was later asked whether UEFA would consider withdrawing from FIFA, Platini said, "Of course."

Update at 12 p.m. ET: Blatter Speaks At FIFA Congress

As FIFA's international sessions begin in Zurich with an opening ceremony Thursday, Blatter tells the audience that corrupt actions "bring shame and humiliation on football and demand action and change from us all."

He also said he can't be expected to know what every FIFA official is up to. Read more from Blatter in our separate post.

Our original story continues:

Platini said that when he asked Blatter to step down, the FIFA leader answered that it's now too late — but that he might have agreed to resign had he been asked earlier.

Blatter was "affected" by their talk, said Platini, who added that he had spoken to Blatter as an old friend.

It's a startling turnabout for both Blatter and FIFA, which earlier this year announced that from 2011 to 2014, it brought in revenue of $5.7 billion against expenses of $5.38 billion. Television rights represent 43 percent of that total; marketing, 29 percent.

On Wednesday, U.S. and Swiss authorities announced arrests, indictments and investigations into alleged bribery and kickbacks, with the U.S. inquiry naming nine senior FIFA officials and several sports marketing executives. A separate Swiss investigation includes the process of choosing host cities for two upcoming World Cup tournaments, in Russia and Qatar.

Seven FIFA officials were arrested at a Lake Zurich hotel where FIFA members had gathered ahead of the organization's elections. Later, the U.S. released a lengthy indictment against 14 individuals that detailed money changing hands over marketing and media rights to prestigious tournaments run by FIFA.

The criminal charges, mostly against senior FIFA leaders in the U.S. and South America, have had wide effects, prompting federal police in Brazil to raid a sports marketing firm in Rio de Janeiro.

From Rio, NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports:

"It's called Klefer Sports Marketing and it's owned by the former head of renowned Brazilian soccer club Flamengo. The company negotiates TV rights for sporting events and had a close relationship with Traffic, the Brazilian firm implicated in bribery scheme.

"Separately, the former footballer and current senator known simply here as Romario has asked the Senate to open an investigation into the Brazilian football confederation. The former president and current vice president of the Brazilian confederation, Jose Maria Marin, is under indictment by U.S. authorities for his involvement in the alleged massive kickback scheme."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.