Blatter makes election appeal to 208 FIFA voters
GENEVA – Sepp Blatter has made his first direct appeal to FIFA voters, urging them to reject "revolution" and re-elect him president on June 1.
Blatter insists in a letter sent to 208 national associations and published Wednesday that he can provide "stability, continuity and reliability" in a world of political and economic turmoil.
Blatter also promised to spread $1 billion among FIFA members for development projects over the next four years, and tackle the threats of "corruption, match-fixing and doping."
It's Blatter's first campaign statement since being challenged last month by former ally Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar, who has pledged to share even more of FIFA's wealth with voters. Bin Hammam is not mentioned in the four-page letter.
The 75-year-old Swiss, who has led soccer's world governing body since 1998, seeks a fourth four-year term that he says will be his last.
"I have all the motivation, experience, ideas and energy necessary to complete my mission," Blatter wrote.
With FIFA often accused of corruption on his watch, Blatter also promised a strong monitoring role for its ethics committee. The panel suspended two members of FIFA's 24-man executive committee from the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting votes last December
"I will ensure discipline, respect and fair play on and off the field," Blatter said.
Blatter's announcement comes one month after bin Hammam, the Asian Football Confederation president, launched his campaign in Kuala Lumpur.
Bin Hammam has pledged wider distribution of World Cup profits, which helped create FIFA's $1.28 billion reserve fund. He said he would double annual grants, giving all 208 members a basic $500,000, and double maximum payments toward Goal program projects to $1 million.
He also promised to share FIFA's power and jobs with its six confederations, by offering 17 extra seats on the executive body and creating legal and development teams at continental headquarters.
The 61-year-old Qatari, who played a key role in his country winning the rights to the 2022 World Cup, also promised to create a transparency panel to help restore public faith in FIFA.
However, public opinion will be less important than support from influential confederation bosses such as Europe's Michel Platini and Jack Warner from the CONCACAF region of North, Central America and the Caribbean.
"I will make a statement at the beginning of May about the position of UEFA," Platini said Wednesday in London.
Platini is scheduled to represent his 53-member group at the South American soccer congress in May 1 in Asuncion, Paraguay, and the CONCACAF gathering May 3 in Miami.
Warner has said his 35-member group will vote as a united bloc, and Blatter toured the region last week on official FIFA business.
Blatter's letter opened with descriptions of a world affected by "natural and nuclear catastrophes," financial turmoil and "political instability and revolution in many regions."
"In these challenging times, FIFA needs first stability, continuity and reliability," said Blatter, who was secretary general for 17 years before becoming president.
Shifting power to the six confederations, as bin Hammam proposes, would put "the football pyramid out of balance," Blatter said.
"We do not need revolution within FIFA, but the continuous evolution and improvement of our game and our organization," he added.
Blatter reminded voters that FIFA has organized 49 tournaments, including three World Cups, under his leadership and vastly increased revenues and spending, thanks to "the professionalism of FIFA's administration."
FIFA has distributed $1.6 billion in development payments since 1998 for a 57-fold increase in funding under Blatter.
Blatter said 194 countries have shared $262 million through the Goal project, which he created. The program has been administered by bin Hammam.
FIFA's commercial income has risen 16-fold since 1998, and totaled $4.2 billion in the four-year financial cycle tied to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Blatter said.
In the past year he drove through extra payments of $550,000 to each member as a share of World Cup profits while also increasing FIFA's reserves.
"As you will recall, FIFA did not have any reserves in 1998," Blatter said.
Blatter pledged to intensify FIFA support for social, education and health programs, and promote the "universality of football across all countries and cultures."
FIFA election rules require the winning candidate to get a two-thirds majority of votes cast in the first ballot, or a majority in the second. Suspended members, which currently includes Bosnia-Herzegovina and Brunei, can't attend the congress in Zurich or vote.
Blatter closed by urging voters "let's go for it — together."
"Football is my life, FIFA is my life," he said.
AP Sports Writer Rob Harris in London contributed to this report.