In wake of Blatter's exit, Fifa must seize chance to impose term limits
The enormous sums of money involved in the sport have dictated each turn in the corruption crisis that has gripped Fifa, the controlling body of world soccer, ending with the resignation of its president, Sepp Blatter, after 17 years in office. First African and Asian soccer authorities repaid Blatter for Fifa's generous regional support with enough votes for re-election in the face of calls for him to go, prompted by grave allegations of corruption on his watch. This is despite the arrests, days before, of several of his officials and five sports agents in the US investigation of conspiracy to launder money and to defraud, and a Swiss criminal probe into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 Fifa World Cups to Russia and Qatar.
Now the last word has come from the giant multinationals who fill Fifa's coffers in return for rights to sponsor the organisation and the World Cup.
After Blatter survived last week's vote, the sponsors made it clear they expected evidence of swift reforms to clean up Fifa. Blatter insisted he was the best man for this job, despite doubts, echoed by this newspaper, raised when a US official said his fate "depends on where the investigation goes from here". He never got the chance to prove it. News this week that Blatter is, indeed, the focus of an FBI corruption investigation proved the last straw for sponsors. As he put it very mildly, his re-election was not supported by everyone in the soccer world.
A special congress to elect Blatter's successor is expected between December and March. This allows time for the game's top administrators to lay the foundations for root and branch reform of an organisation reeling from the worst corruption scandal in its history. To his credit, Blatter has conceded it needs "profound restructuring". The bywords must be transparency and accountability, backed by an independent and incorruptible auditing and compliance process.
A good start would be to cap the president's time at the top, to maintain renewal of the ruling regime and prevent abuse of the enormous power of patronage of the office.