KEIR RADNEDGE in ZURICH: Whatever message FIFA sought to send out yesterday it was not business as usual for president Sepp Blatter here today in Zurich.
The 79-year-old Swiss president of the embattled world football federation had been due to offer an opening address to the two-day medical congress preceding the opening of annual congress tonight.
However Blatter was absent from the podium as delegates, including presidents and general secretaries of FIFA member associations, entered the Swissotel conference hall for the opening of the second day of the medical conference.
Instead, after a 10-minute delay, Jiri Dvorak, FIFA’s medical chief, stepped up to offer Blatter’s regrets at bring forced to miss a conference attended by far more media representatives than would usually have been expected.
Dvorak said: “President Blatter apologises for not being able to come today because of the turblences you have probably followed in the media so he has to fulfil his duties in the management of the sitution – which is probably more important than to come to us.
“So, he sent his sincere apologies and greetings to you all.”
Last [Wednesday] Blatter had issued a personal statement of concern about what he described as “unfortunate” events which had seen the dawn arrest of seven senior FIFA-linked officials then indictments handed down by the United States justice authorities concerning these and a further seven men on corruption charges.
Blatter had 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.”