Walter De Gregorio is leaving his post as FIFA director of communications ©Getty Images

FIFA’s director of communications and public affairs Walter De Gregorio is quitting his post with immediate effect, ahead of quite possibly the most turbulent nine months in the world football body’s history.

His departure, after nearly four years of trying to shape the organisation’s public image under intermittently intense pressure, was announced as FIFA set the date of July 20 for a vital Executive Committee (ExCo) meeting.

The meeting, in Zurich, will in turn set the date for the extraordinary FIFA Congress at which a successor to Sepp Blatter, the body’s embattled President, is expected to be elected.

This Congress, also in Zurich, will be held between December 2015 and February 2016.

Next month’s ExCo meeting should also yield information about the reforms that Blatter hopes will improve the body’s defective corporate governance and go some way to salvaging his own battered reputation, since “reform of FIFA’s organisational structure” is included on the agenda.

Walter De Gregorio has acted as a key apologist for the actions of FIFA over recent years ©Getty Images
Walter De Gregorio has acted as a key apologist for the actions of FIFA over recent years ©Getty Images

News of De Gregorio's departure comes days after he an appearance on Swiss television where, when asked to tell his favourite FIFA joke, he said: "The FIFA President, secretary general and communications director are in a car, who’s driving?"

"The Police"

The decision was said to be due to "mutual consent", although this wisecrack is thought to have contributed heavily.

He will remain “on a consultancy basis” until the year-end, while the official will be succeeded on an interim basis by his deputy Nicolas Maingot, an old FIFA hand respected by journalists who can be expected to bring an air of quiet, intelligent efficiency to the role.

It will be interesting to see if the agency Weber Shandwick - widely reported last December to have been hired by FIFA to work on PR relating to the 2018 World Cup in Russia - is asked to take on a wider brief over a period when the serious problems confronting FIFA and other football bodies will continue to be a huge global news story.

FIFA’s secretary general Jérôme Valcke said De Gregorio had “worked incredibly hard for the past four years and we are immensely grateful for all he has done”.

He added: “I am glad we will be able to continue to draw on his expertise until the end of the year”.

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