Blatter wins re-election despite FIFA corruption scandal

Sepp Blatter Wins FIFA Leadership Election

ZURICH (AP) -- In the end, nothing could stop Sepp Blatter.

Not a far-reaching corruption scandal. Not a tarnished international image. Not a young prince who gave him a stronger-than-expected challenge.

Despite the biggest crisis in FIFA's 111-year history, Blatter emerged victorious once again Friday, winning re-election as president of world soccer's governing body for a fifth term and proving he is the sport's ultimate survivor.

"I am now the president of everybody," the 79-year-old Blatter crowed after defeating Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan to secure another four years in office as one of the most powerful men in sports.

Blatter was declared the victor after Prince Ali withdrew following the first round of secret balloting among FIFA's 209 member federations. Blatter won the first ballot 133-73, seven votes short of the two-thirds majority required for victory.

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Blatter wins re-election despite FIFA corruption scandal
FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks during a press conference at the headquarters of the world's football governing body in Zurich on June 2, 2015. Blatter resigned as president of FIFA as a mounting corruption scandal engulfed world football's governing body. The 79-year-old Swiss official, FIFA president for 17 years and only reelected days ago, said a special congress would be called to elect a successor. AFP PHOTO / VALERIANO DI DOMENICO (Photo credit should read VALERIANO DI DOMENICO/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA president Sepp Blatter attends a press conference on May 30, 2015 in Zurich after being re-elected during the FIFA Congress. Blatter said he was 'shocked' at the way the US judiciary has targeted football's world body and slammed what he called a 'hate' campaign by Europe's football leaders. (Photo credit Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA President Sepp Blatter walks after a press conference at the headquarters of the world's football governing body in Zurich on June 2, 2015. Blatter resigned as president of FIFA as a mounting corruption scandal engulfed world football's governing body. The 79-year-old Swiss official, FIFA president for 17 years and only reelected days ago, said a special congress would be called to elect a successor. (Photo credit Valeriano Di Domenico, AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures after being re-elected following a vote to decide on the FIFA presidency in Zurich on May 29, 2015. Sepp Blatter won the FIFA presidency for a fifth time Friday after his challenger Prince Ali bin al Hussein withdrew just before a scheduled second round. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures after being re-elected following a vote to decide on the FIFA presidency in Zurich on May 29, 2015. Sepp Blatter won the FIFA presidency for a fifth time Friday after his challenger Prince Ali bin al Hussein withdrew just before a scheduled second round. AFP PHOTO / MICHAEL BUHOLZER (Photo credit should read MICHAEL BUHOLZER/AFP/Getty Images)
A man wearing a mask depicting FIFA President Sepp Blatter holding Swiss Francs stands next to a woman holding a banner reading 'Game over for Blatter' during a protest held in front of the Hallenstadium where the 65th FIFA Congress takes place in Zurich on May 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MICHAEL BUHOLZER (Photo credit should read MICHAEL BUHOLZER/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA chief Sepp Blatter leaves at the end of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) regional Congress on April 30, 2015 in the Bahraini capital Manama. Sepp Blatter closed on a fifth term as FIFA president as a key ally, Asia's soccer boss, won new powers and silenced dissent at a regional congress in Bahrain. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures during the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 29, 2015. FIFA leader Sepp Blatter joined figures who have questioned the timing of a police raid to arrest top football figures just two days ahead of a presidential vote by the world body. Blatter also told the FIFA congress that the world body might not be embroiled in its corruption scandal if Russia and Qatar had not been awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures as he speaks during the opening ceremony of the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 28, 2015. FIFA president Sepp Blatter said on May 28 that the scandal-tainted football body faces 'more bad news' and that officials accused of corruption had brought shame and humiliation on the organisation. But the 79-year-old Swiss official told the opening of FIFA's annual congress he could not be blamed for the latest controversy to hit the body saying he could not 'monitor' every official. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA President Sepp Blatter shows the name of France, after FIFA's executive committee on March 19, 2015 decided that France will host the 2019 women's World Cup. FIFA's executive committee started a two-day meeting on March 19 to decide the dates of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and announce their decision on the 2019 women's World Cup. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA President Sepp Blatter gives a thumb up at the opening of the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 29, 2015. FIFA president Sepp Blatter heads into a re-election vote amid FIFA's corruption scandal on May 29, 2015 adamant that only he can clean up the world's most popular sport, to the dismay of critics who want to issue a red card to his 17-year rule. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
President of International governing body of association football FIFA Sepp Blatter holds the FIFA statutes during an interview on May 15, 2015 at the of organization's headquarters in Zurich. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA President Joseph Sepp Blatter attends the Ordinary UEFA Congress in Vienna, Austria on March 24, 2015. The annual congress of European football's governing body is expected to focus on elections for UEFA Presidency, UEFA Executive Committee and FIFA Executive Committee. AFP PHOTO / JOE KLAMAR (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA president Sepp Blatter attends a press conference on May 30, 2015 in Zurich after being re-elected during the FIFA Congress. Blatter said he was 'shocked' at the way the US judiciary has targeted football's world body and slammed what he called a 'hate' campaign by Europe's football leaders. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Before the start of the second round, where a simple majority would be enough for victory, the 39-year-old prince conceded defeat. By preventing Blatter from securing an outright first-round triumph, Prince Ali gave Blatter a symbolic bloody nose and showed that his previous iron grip on the organization has weakened.

"I want to thank all of you who were brave enough to support me," Prince Ali told the delegates.

With FIFA in turmoil amid a pair of U.S. and Swiss corruption investigations, Blatter had remained defiant and refused to step down - as demanded by European soccer's governing body, UEFA.

The result of the one-vote-per-country election proved that Blatter retains the loyalty of the many smaller countries in Africa and Asia, a bloc that is enough to counter his critics in Europe and elsewhere.

"I like you. I like my job," Blatter said to the assembly after receiving a mix of cheers and jeers as he stepped to the stage for his victory speech. "I am not perfect, nobody is perfect, but we will do a good job together I am sure."

Then he exhorted the delegates: "Together we go! Let's go FIFA! Let's go FIFA!"

The election took place two days after seven soccer officials were arrested in dawn raids at a luxury Zurich hotel. The U.S. Justice Department indicted 14 people on charges of bribery, racketeering, money-laundering and other charges. In a separate investigation, Swiss authorities are looking into FIFA's awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar. And Britain's Serious Fraud Office said Friday it is assessing "material in its possession" relating to allegations of FIFA corruption.

Blatter himself was not implicated in the U.S. indictments, but prosecutors have said the investigations are far from over.

FIFA's big-money sponsors have also called for change within FIFA. Visa warned it could pull out of its contract, which is worth at least $25 million a year through 2022.

Blatter, who has been in office for 17 years, portrayed himself as the man who can guide FIFA through the tumult and restore trust in an organization that has been left battered and reeling from years of corruption accusations.

"I have been made responsible for this storm," he said in his final speech to the voters before the election. "That's fine, that's fine. I take that responsibility. I take it. I take it upon myself and I also want to accept this responsibility, get back on the path, to fix FIFA, together with you."

The election went ahead after U.S. and Swiss federal investigations struck at the heart of Blatter's circle. Two FIFA vice presidents and a recently elected executive committee member were still in custody Friday as the votes were counted.

"I thank you that you accepted me for the next four years," Blatter told the assembly. "I will be in command of this boat called FIFA and we will bring it back off shore and bring it back to the beach."

He cited God and Allah in his speech, saying they would help guide FIFA out of its crisis.

"I promise you, in the end of my term I will give this FIFA to my successor in a very, very strong position, a robust FIFA and a good FIFA," he said.

Blatter won despite direct calls for his resignation from UEFA president Michel Platini, who sat still during the congress and did not clap during the victory remarks.

"I am proud that UEFA has defended and supported a movement for change at FIFA, change which in my opinion is crucial if this organization is to regain its credibility," Platini said.

UEFA is scheduled to hold meetings next week in Berlin ahead of the Champions League final. Platini said before the vote that UEFA could pull out of FIFA and withdraw from the World Cup if Blatter was re-elected.

In what appeared to be a warning to UEFA, Blatter pledged Friday to change the representation of his influential executive committee, where Europe currently has eight of 25 voting members. Blatter also said he would retain a 32-team World Cup and resist expanding what is FIFA's cash cow.

England Football Association chairman Greg Dyke, who voted for Prince Ali, said Europe's opposition to Blatter would not wane.

"This isn't over by any means," he said. "The events of this week are so traumatic for FIFA that I cannot see FIFA reforming itself under Blatter - he's had (17) years to reform it and he hasn't done it."

Sunil Gulati, president of the U.S. soccer federation and a member of FIFA's executive committee, also voted against Blatter.

"While we are disappointed in the result of the election, we will continue to push for meaningful change within FIFA," he said. "Our goal is for governance of FIFA that is responsible, accountable, transparent and focused solely on the best interests of the game."

Blatter did have one big ally in Europe - Russia, the site of the next World Cup.

"Russia staunchly supported Blatter," Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told The Associated Press, "so we are very satisfied with a result like this."

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Associated Press writers Rob Harris, Frank Jordans and James Ellingworth contributed to this report.


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