KEIR RADNEDGE in ZURICH: Sepp Blatter, fighting for his political life and to save the FIFA from the abyss, has issued a defiant statement claiming that he approved of legal action to help him clean up the world football federation.

Blatter followed up an earlier press conference at which his communications director, Walter DeGregorio, claimed it was business as usual heading towards Friday’s election congress in Zurich.

Regret was the tone of Blatter’s statement as he tried to maintain control of his embattled organisation as World Cup sponsors began to express their concerns and UEFA demanded the postponement of Friday’s presidential election.

Blatter said: “This is a difficult time for football, the fans and for FIFA as an organisation. We understand the disappointment that many have expressed and I know that the events of today will impact the way in which many people view us.

“As unfortunate as these events are, it should be clear that we welcome the actions and the investigations by the US and Swiss authorities and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football.”

Four years ago Blatter escaped to victory in the presidential election while promising a reform process following the scandals over the 2018-2022 World Cup bid awards and a cash-for-votes scandal in the presidency campaign.

In his latest statement Blatter accepted the slow progress towards reform.

He said: “While there will be many who are frustrated with the pace of change, I would like to stress the actions that we have taken and will continue to take.

“In fact, today’s action by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General was set in motion when we submitted a dossier to the Swiss authorities late last year.

“Let me be clear: such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game.”

Blatter then noted that the independent ethics committee – which is still preparing possible disciplinary action over the 2018-2022 World Cup awards – had already banned provisionally those football officials indicted by the US Justice Department.

He concluded: “We will continue to work with the relevant authorities and we will work vigorously within FIFA in order to root out any misconduct, to regain your trust and ensure that football worldwide is free from wrongdoing.”

The ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, minutes earlier, had issued an order of provisional suspension of those football-linked people named in the indictments from the US Justice Department.

Eckert said: “The charges are clearly related to football and are of such a serious nature that it was imperative to take swift and immediate action. The proceedings will follow their course in line with the FIFA Code of Ethics.”

The banned individuals are: Jeffrey Webb, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Jack Warner, Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel, José Maria Marin, Nicolás Leoz, Chuck Blazer and Daryll Warner.

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