Joseph S. Blatter: I’ve been at FIFA since February 1975. I was the first development worker and I think fundamentally I’ve always remained the same. My key objective was to bring the socio-cultural elements of football into society.
At the moment you have some rather different problems...
We need to bring the image of FIFA back to the same level as football. Football has a very positive image.
You yourself are now playing the role of reformer. Has that meant a change in your own character?
As a Catholic you’ll know that before absolution, you have to recognise and regret your sins…
Recognise yes, but never regret. I’ve felt what’s going on in the world and recognised that something has to change from within FIFA.
In one internet column you wrote that some terrible mistakes had been made. Do they include ones by you?
Look at it this way: Anyone who works a lot makes mistakes from time to time. One thing I would never do again is allow the Executive Committee to award two World Cups at once. It led to a conflict of interests because everyone was able to vote, even if their own country was involved in the bidding. That was a mistake.
A personal mistake?
If you are indeed to lose Executive Committee members, they would need to be replaced. Won't that just perpetuate the problem?
No, not any more.
Because it's a new dawn. One of the four Task Forces we've established, for Transparency and Compliance, will soon be active. It consists of six delegates from Congress – not the Executive Committee – which were chosen by me. Presiding are Juan Angel Napout, President of the Paraguayan FA and Frank van Hattum, President of the New Zealand FA. The President of the Danish FA, Allan Hansen, who spoke for the Nordic countries at Congress and demanded more transparency, is also involved. Among other things, these people will ensure the new Executive Committee members are ethically and morally sound. FIFA will demand a solid character reference.
And the former members?
That's a question for the law, but I'm convinced that all members will come through any such checks.
Yes, of course.
In the first quarter of next year.
Have you considered changing the Executive Committee election procedure completely?
That's a possibility. Congress could elect them.
And how likely is that?
If it were up to me alone, I would place all structural bodies under the authority of Congress. It's up to the Task Force Revision of Statutes, chaired by Dr. Theo Zwanziger, to consider this. At the moment they're elected by the confederations, but they should just be recommended by the confederations and elected by Congress.
Will the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar be re-investigated?
At the moment we're working with renowned experts like Sylvia Schenk from Transparency International and the Basel-based anti-corruption expert Professor Marc Pieth. They're giving their input to the Good Governance Committee, which will then submit its suggestions to the Executive Committee and Congress, where the matter will in turn be dealt with.
President of the German FA (DFB) Theo Zwanziger says the votes for Qatar may have come about as a result of political pressure. In that case, surely such a basic form of corruption wouldn't have been necessary. Is he right?
I don't wish to answer that question. I'll leave it to the Good Governance Committee to look into that matter.
Where will the members of that committee come from? At the moment all we know is that half will come from FIFA and the other half will be independent.
An announcement will be made after the Executive Committee meeting on 17 December.
Will the Transparency and Good Governance Committees have access to cases looked into by the Ethics Committee, such as the one into your challenger Mohamed Bin Hammam and the one into yourself shortly before your re-election in June?
The committees work closely together. The Ethics Committee’s file on me can be made completely public. I am not asking for any special treatment. I have nothing to confess, to regret or to apologise for in that regard.
These people will ensure the new Executive Committee members are ethically and morally sound. FIFA will demand a solid character reference.
After 36 years at FIFA you had to put up with being regarded as the architect of the whole system – including the obvious corruption. How could you allow it to happen?
You say that I allowed it… The leadership body is the Executive Committee and isn’t elected by the President. The members are elected by the six confederations. That way I get people in my government from various cultures and social milieus. They also have varying concepts of ethics and morals. I didn’t choose them and I can’t be held accountable for their actions. I’m the figurehead of this organisation but I'm not a dictator. I've brought the Executive Committee to where I want it to be now, though. At our last meeting on 21 October, all those members present – four were absent – agreed on a new structure. Now I finally have the support I need to implement the necessary reforms.
That involves four new Task Forces who will report to a new Good Governance Committee. Will the Executive Committee members adhere to your plans for reform, even though it would mean putting themselves in the firing line?
I brought three new things to vote at the end of the last Congress.
What were they?
It was decided that in future, Congress, so the delegates from the 208 member associations, should vote for the host countries of World Cups, not the Executive Committee, and also that the Ethics Committee should be expanded. There should also be a bureau of investigation and a tribunal whose members are elected by the members of Congress and not by the Executive Committee. The establishment of a Good Governance Committee was also agreed upon. All this was accepted with 99 per cent of the votes. It was recently brought into question whether I was even allowed to bring that to vote, and I had to say 'Sorry, but Congress is the supreme body’.
The 24-man Executive Committee is currently undergoing a process of change which is far from finished. Several members have been accused of corruption, while others are being tried in their own countries. In addition, you wish to open the file regarding the insolvency of the rights marketing company ISL/ISMM which contains the names of those who were bribed. Will we even be able to recognise the Executive Committee once the dust has settled?
Not that many were involved, but it does look like some people won't be able to stay on the Executive Committee. I don't want to talk specifically about the ISL case. We'll do it openly and publicly and we'll ask an independent body to judge the documents. I can only tell you that there are no Swiss names on the list of people who accepted payments. Those who are hunting me and suggesting that Sepp Blatter is on the list are plain wrong.
Among the Executive Committee members accused of corruption in public are Makudi from Thailand, Hayatou from Cameroon, Leoz from Paraguay, Grondona from Argentina and Teixeira from Brazil.
If you're referring to the document related to the ISL case, I can tell you that that list isn't entirely correct. With regard to Mr. Makudi, I can tell you that we have asked him for an explanation regarding one of our charity projects. It's about our money. We received information from Thailand that the project would be constructed on land that we had paid for which apparently already belonged to him. The case is ongoing at a High Court in Thailand. If there is a case against him, it will be passed on to the Ethics Committee.
Issa Hayatou, President of the African Confederation and recently-appointed chairman of the 'Goal' development programme, is even being investigated by the International Olympic Committee. This is said to involve payments from ISL. What sort of punishment can he expect if proven guilty?
We're not investigating, the IOC is. They're investigating a sum of under 25,000 Swiss francs. According to the CAF accounts, which we also examine, the money has been correctly accounted for.
If an Executive Committee member is proven guilty, what would be the next step?
Either they would have to resign or wait to find out what the independent investigators decide. I would like to emphasise that the payments made by ISL at the time were not illegal.
But still, something is not right.
At the moment they're elected by the confederations, but they should just be recommended by the confederations and elected by Congress.