Sepp Blatter, the 75-year-old Swiss who has served as Fifa president since 1998, was cleared of corruption allegations by an internal ethics committee last week, a few days before an election to decide whether Blatter should remain at the helm of the football organisation.
In a last-minute development, the Fifa ethics committee also announced it had temporarily suspended two other top officials, including Mohamed bin Hammam, who until a few days ago was the sole challenger to Blatter in the June 1 vote.
Both bin Hammam, who had withdrawn from the race just hours before the hearing with the ethics panel, and Jack Warner, a Fifa vice president, were placed under internal investigation with accusations of bribing voters during the election campaign, Fifa said. If found guilty, they could face a lifetime ban from football-related activities. Both have denied wrongdoing.
Bin Hammam had asked the ethics committee to investigate Blatter, arguing the Swiss knew of alleged bribe attempts and did not take action. On Sunday, the committee said there was no evidence against the current Fifa president, who is now standing unopposed for re-election for his fourth term at the helm of the organisation.
Fifa and Blatter have both routinely come under scrutiny over the years in a series of alleged bribery cases. In 2006, Andrew Jennings, a Scottish investigative reporter who runs the website Transparency in Sport, wrote a book detailing a string of misdeeds at the organisation. Various newspaper editorials in Switzerland and abroad have centred criticism on Blatter, who has always denied any wrongdoing.
Blatter, born in the town of Visp, near the famous Matterhorn, served as a Fifa General Secretary from 1981 to 1998 when he was elected as the eighth president of the organisation. He had already served Fifa in various positions for twenty-three years. An active footballer from 1948 to 1971, he played for the Swiss amateur league in the top division.