On Monday, the FIFA Executive Committee, during organizational meetings in Zurich, set a February 26, 2016 date for the next FIFA President elections to replace the outgoing and maligned Sepp Blatter, who amid allegations of corruption within FIFA, will step down sometime next year.
A little after 3 p.m. local time, Blatter planned to address the media to elaborate on several other reforms the committee had voted to adopt, but he neglected to provide any details and, in some cases, left the reform so vague as to render it practically meaningless. The press conference was immediately disrupted by British comedian Simon Brodkin (aka Lee Nelson), who threw a stack of dollars at Blatter, saying it was "for North Korea 2026." Blatter was not amused, and briefly adjourned the conference.
When he returned about 20 minutes later, Blatter, appearing nervous, fidgeted with items on his desk, and said he was happy to address the gathered press.
"You will ask me why I'm happy to meet you, because this gives me also the impression that I'm still alive," Blatter said. "Sometimes I had the impression that after, let's say this Tsunami that on the 22nd of May came to Zurich, that the waves of the Tsunami have taken me away. Not at all. Not at all."
The announced reforms are as follows:
Enhanced integrity checks for ExCo members
Blatter talked briefly about the importance of increased integrity, saying previous checks were "not accepted in the right way. It must be done by a neutral organization. In this case it will be done by FIFA's ethics committee."
But Blatter didn't elaborate on what these integrity checks actually mean, and who or what is actually being checked and for what reason.
Higher standards of governance
What exactly this means remains unclear. Blatter said reforms will begin immediately and will be announced in seven weeks at the next ExCo meeting. He hinted at a possible restructuring, saying it was important that whatever decisions made by the FIFA Congress "go down in the pyramid, go down to the confederations and the national associations. FIFA can not be alone responsible for 209 national associations, 300 million active participants in football and 1.6 billion people directly or indirectly linked with our game. It can not be done."
Introduction of term limits
FIFA elected officials will now have a three-term limit of four years per term. It was later pointed out to Blatter that, because he's on his fifth term, he's in breach of this new rule. Blatter responded that the matter had been killed once by the secretary generals of the various FIFA confederations and later "rejected by a large majority of the [FIFA] congress."
He took personal credit for reproposing term limits, "because I think it is something which is very important, to reduce the number of mandates for the members, but not only the president. You have to reduce [the mandates] for everybody in FIFA, in the Confederations, and then down. And then, you will have the right solution."
Publication of FIFA salaries
In the spirit of transparency, FIFA plans to release the salaries of the organization's top officials. Blatter's salary has long been a subject of speculation. The first question asked of Blatter during the question-and-answer period had to do with his salary.
"We will do this exactly as it is prepared," responded Blatter, obviously scrambling. "We will do it concerning all those who are involved in this disclosure, and we will do it at a time when this comes to a decision."
When the next question doubled down on the first, Blatter smiled and said, "You can ask me this question the whole afternoon, if you want. I just answered. I stay with this answer."
As the conference wore on, Blatter repeatedly touched on his decades-long involvement in FIFA, saying at one point he wanted "to leave, after 40 years in FIFA, and say 'Good bye' when you have realized something good."
It's statements like these that only highlight how out of touch Blatter has become. Rather than applaud Blatter's time in office, the gathered press peppered him with pointed questions about whether he could "understand the cynicism" (he dodged) and bemused softballs about what he might do after he's finished at FIFA (get into radio journalism). But the final question was as blunt as they come:
A journalist asked why Blatter felt the need to stay on the job after having resigned in June. By the next election, Blatter will have served as president for nine months after his resignation. He was also asked if he felt a sense of regret or shame.
Blatter admitted to feeling regret, but the rest of his statement was as defiant as ever. "But I am still the elected President by 133 national associations on the 29th, and I will use my mandate as President and responsibility. And my mission…is to make sure that at the end of February [when] I come to the end of my career, then I can say, FIFA, we have started again—the reform—and to rebuild the reputation of FIFA. But [about this resignation], I have never resigned a position. I will never do it in my life."