Stepping down from the world’s soccer governing body, Sepp Blatter said FIFA “needs a profound restructuring.”
The 79-year-old Blatter announced he would be resigning for his post on Tuesday, just days after he was re-elected for a fifth term, and less than a week after Swiss federal prosecutors opened criminal proceedings to the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
“I cherish FIFA more than anything and I want to do only what is best for FIFA and for football,” Blatter said in a hastily arranged press conference in Zurich. “I felt compelled to stand for re-election, as I believed that this was the best thing for the organization. That election is over but FIFA’s challenges are not.”
He added: “FIFA needs a profound overhaul.”
In resigning, Blatter promised to call for new elections to choose a successor. Elections are expected to take place sometime between December and March.
“I will continue to exercise my function (until the new election,” said Blatter, who looked strained and serious.
Blatter, who was defiant and feisty just three days ago when fending off questions about FIFA’s battered reputation, said he reached the decision after he had “thoroughly considered my presidency and … the last 40 years in my life.”
Blatter joined FIFA in 1975 as technical director for development projects, was promoted to general secretary in 1981 and spent 17 years as righ-hand man to Joao Havelange of Brazil before being elected as president.
The new election will be overseen by Domenico Scala, chairman of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee.
Scala gave a statement immediately after Blatter, in which he praised a decision that was “difficult and courageous in the current circumstances.”
“This is the most responsible way to ensure an orderly transition,” he said.
In his remarks, Blatter called for “far-reaching, fundamental reforms” that would transcend previous efforts.
“For years, we have worked hard to put in place administrative reforms, but it is plain to me that while they must continue, they are not enough,” he said. “We need deep-rooted structural change.”
According to the Guardian, the chairman of England's Football Association, Greg Dyke, is already raising questions about what will happen to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups whose bids are at the heart of the corruption scandal. “Something has come out of the events of last week that has caused Mr Blatter to resign," Dyke said. "At long last we can sort out FIFA. We can go back to looking at those two World Cups. If I were Qatar right now, I wouldn’t be feeling very comfortable.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.