2 Jun 2015

We couldn't back Blatter - football chief

9:09 pm on 2 June 2015

New Zealand Football's chief executive Andy Martin has just returned from a tumultuous congress of the sport's ruling body in Zurich which he says was "surreal".

Sepp Blatter reacts after his re-election as president of FIFA in Zurich.

Sepp Blatter reacts after his re-election as president of FIFA in Zurich. Photo: AFP

Fourteen people including officials from the International Football Federation, (FIFA), were arrested by Swiss and American authorities on bribery and racketeering charges on the eve of the meeting.

Despite the head of the European governing body UEFA, Michel Platini, calling for him to stand down, incumbent Sepp Blatter was re-elected FIFA president two days later at the Zurich congress.

New Zealand Football CEO Andy Martin.

New Zealand Football CEO Andy Martin. Photo: Supplied

Mr Martin told Morning Report the events in Switzerland were "surreal" and it was shortly after the arrests on Wednesday that New Zealand decided to change from supporting Mr Blatter and get behind his sole opponent, Prince Ali bin Hussein.

"The events shocked the football world. It tarnished the reputation of football and it was just enough is enough, to be quite honest. It was sufficient for us to change our vote from previously supporting Blatter and to go with Prince Ali, who was offering a new leadership and a new change agenda," Mr Martin said.

Despite being aware of corruption rumours swirling around FIFA , Mr Martin said the arrests were still shocking.

"I think there's been a lot of rumours and speculation around, and people weren't surprised, but they were very shocked by how quickly and how hard this hit last week."

Consequently Mr Blatter should have stepped down, he said.

"In any business, or any government, if this sort of allegation hit so hard, you would expect some responsibility from the leadership. That's what people were looking for last week.

"And to have the vote take place on Friday and continue with Blatter getting through again was just quite shocking."

Mr Martin told Morning Report that he hoped UEFA in concert with Prince Ali and the 73 nations who opposed Mr Blatter, could force through change.

"You need to have integrity in the leadership of an organisation, you can't have these systemic corruption allegations continually hitting the brand of football."

He said the grassroots of football now despised the leadership of FIFA and that had to change.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter attends a press conference on May 30, 2015 in Zurich after being re-elected during the FIFA Congress.

Sepp Blatter attends a press conference on May 30 in Zurich after being re-elected. Photo: AFP

Qatar plotted to buy the World Cup, says reporter

Meanwhile investigative journalist, Heidi Blake, has told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme she believed a culture of vote-buying led to the controversial decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

Vast sums of development money under FIFA's "Goal Programme" was used to build Mr Blatter an unassailable position of power, she said.

Ms Blake and fellow reporter Jonathan Calvert started to investigate the Qatar bid for the UK's Sunday Times newspaper. Their work is now published in a book, The Ugly Game - The Qatari Plot to Buy the World Cup.

The investigation, and subsequent book, was based on millions of documents they were given access to by a FIFA whistleblower.

"When FIFA announced that Qatar had won the rights to host the World Cup, the world's biggest sporting tournament, in one of the world's smallest countries, a country with no infrastructure, football tradition and totally unsuitable conditions - I think the whole world looked at that decision and said there's just something very obviously wrong with that, " she told Nine To Noon.

Heidi Blake

Heidi Blake Photo: Twitter

Ms Blake said there was no plausible explanation as to why 14 members of FIFA's executive committee chose Qatar over more credible bids by Australia, the USA, Japan and South Korea.

A vote-buying strategy conducted over many years on an industrial scale secured the tournament for Qatar, she said.

She said the leaked documents obtained by her and Mr Calvert showed payments of up to $US200,000 being transferred to the bank accounts of FIFA officials across Africa and Asia.

There were also direct payments made to members of FIFA's executive committee.

All this, she said, went on under a vast system of patronage created by Mr Blatter.

"Officials who serve on FIFA's committees, even at a national level, owe Sepp Blatter their jobs and their generous expense accounts.

"By doling out enormous amounts of FIFA's huge gold reserves to football federations around the world in football development money, he's got the whole football community totally beholden to him," she said.

Ms Blake said that in her opinion that was how Mr Blatter has been able to secure re-election time and time again.

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