Sepp Blatter was given a grilling on the first day of his fifth term as FIFA President ©AFP/Getty Images

Sepp Blatter today raised the prospect of personal visits to placate sponsors by top FIFA officials, as he endured the latest of many grillings by European media on the first day of his fifth term as FIFA President.

Asked how worried he was about sponsors - six of whom contributed $708.5 million (£478 million/€650 million) to FIFA over the 2011-14 World Cup cycle - deserting football, Blatter gave an indication of how seriously the world body is taking the situation by revealing there had already been an exchange of letters.

He went on: “We start now to bring back the reputation of FIFA…

“I am sure I will bring them all back in the right situation, therefore if I can’t, [We will make] personal visits to the organisation of these sponsors.”

His comments come after some of FIFA’s most prominent sponsors spoke out unusually strongly in the wake of the dramatic and hugely embarrassing indictments and arrests of leading football figures that preceded the FIFA Congress, with one - Visa - demanding “changes now” or “we will reassess our sponsorship”.

In an ironic twist, the English Football Association chose Saturday, FA Cup final day, to announce that Emirates - until last year one of the six FIFA Partners - would become the Cup’s new “lead partner”, starting next season.

As the world started to come to terms with the prospect of four more years of the 79-year-old Blatter at the helm of one of the world’s most powerful sports organisations, he suffered the indignity of being asked within hours of his re-election whether he was concerned that he too might be arrested.

“Arrested for what? Next question,” he snapped, letting his frustration show.

Journalists take their seats ahead of the arrival of Sepp Blatter at today's press conference ©Getty Images
Journalists take their seats ahead of the arrival of Sepp Blatter at today's press conference ©Getty Images

He was also forced to deny that he was the “high-ranking FIFA official” alleged by the US Department of Justice in 2008 to have “caused payments” totalling $10 million (£6 million/€9 million) to be wired from a FIFA account in Switzerland for credit to accounts controlled by Jack Warner, a former FIFA vice-president who is one of the 14 indicted defendants.

The Department of Justice alleges that this money would otherwise have gone from FIFA to South Africa, and was understood to have been paid in exchange for the agreement of Warner and two other then FIFA Executive Committee (ExCo) members to vote for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup.  

“Definitely that’s not me,” he replied when asked if he was the official. “I had no $10 million.”

At an ExCo meeting preceding this bruising press conference at FIFA headquarters, it was decided to make no change in the allocation of World Cup slots among continental football Confederations for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.

This means the situation will remain as follows: Europe 13 places, Africa five, Asia and South America 4.5 each, North, Central America and the Caribbean 3.5, Oceania 0.5, plus one slot for the respective hosts, Russia and Qatar.

Countries from the 2022 host continent Asia, however, will not be able to bid for the right to hold the 2026 competition.

This appears to rule out China, while leaving the way clear for nations from the 2018 host, Europe, to bid.

There were suggestions that this might have been agreed in part to allay what appears to be the diminishing possibility of a World Cup boycott, or other meaningful action, by the European Confederation UEFA in response to Blatter’s win.

UEFA, which is thought to have delivered around 40 of the 73 votes amassed by Blatter’s challenger, Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, is expected to meet in Berlin on June 6 on the occasion of the Champions League final between Juventus and Barcelona.

The newly-installed English FIFA vice-president David Gill, as expected, was among three absentees from the FIFA ExCo meeting.

David Gill, as expected, did not attend the FIFA Executive Committee meeting today ©AFP/Getty Images
David Gill, as expected, did not attend the FIFA Executive Committee meeting today ©AFP/Getty Images

In spite of being listed as chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA Club World Cup, Gill released a statement confirming that he would not be taking his ExCo place.

“This action is not something I take lightly, but the terribly damaging events of the last three days have convinced me it is not appropriate to be a member of the FIFA Executive Committee under the current leadership,” the statement said.

“My professional reputation is critical to me and I simply do not see how there will be change for the good of world football while Mr Blatter remains in post.”

Luís Figo, the former Portugal star who entered the Presidential race but withdrew before the vote, released his own strongly-worded statement.

There was, he said, “no way someone can lead FIFA ignoring the most elementary rules of transparency, legality and democracy…

“Mr Blatter knew and was aware of the acts of corruption, influence and racketeering or, if he did not know - as he says - it’s because he has no skills to lead FIFA.

“There is no other way to analyse the problem.”

By contrast, there was support for the FIFA President from the Kremlin, which said Russian President Vladimir Putin had “expressed confidence that experience, professionalism and high authority will help Blatter and further promote the expansion of the geography and popularity of football in the whole world”.

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