Blatter in Clear over FIFA Bribes but Questions Remain After Havelange Resigns

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Blatter in Clear over FIFA Bribes but Questions Remain After Havelange Resigns
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
FIFA honorary president Joao Havelange, left, has resigned after being found to have accepted bribes, but Sepp Blatter has been cleared of misconduct.

Joao Havelange was a respected executive in his role as FIFA president from 1974 until 1998.

The Brazilian was an Olympic swimmer in 1936 and a competitor at the Pan American Games in 1951, before going on to become chef de mission for his nation's team at the 1956 Olympic Games in 1956.

He moved into sports administration with his role as president of the Brazilian Swimming Federation and then as president of the Brazilian Sports Confederation from 1958 to 1973.

In 1974, Havelange defeated longstanding FIFA president Stanley Rous in the elections for the lead role in the world governing body.

Havelange stood down from his FIFA position in 1998 and Joseph "Sepp" Blatter succeeded the Brazilian at the helm of world football.

Now, though, Havelange's time as FIFA president has been shattered the revelations of bribery (BBC Sport) with International Sport and Leisure (ISL), a sports marketing company which collapsed in 2001.

Havelange, 96, was identified by an internal FIFA inquiry as accepting bribes from ISL, along with fellow executives, Ricardo Teixeira and Dr Nicolas Leoz.

Teixeira, who was married to Havelange's daughter, was president of the Brazilian Football Confederation from 1989 until March 2012, while Leoz was South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) before stepping down last week on health and personal grounds (BBC Sport).

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Former Football Association chairman Lord Triesman made allegations against FIFA Executive Committee members during England's bid to stage the 2018 World Cup.

In May 2011, former Football Association chairman Lord Triesman alleged both Teixeria and Leoz requested bribes as England sought to win the right to stage the 2018 World Cup Finals (BBC Sport).

Both men were cleared of the allegations (BBC Sport) later in the same month, but the revelations that Teixeria and Leoz, along with Havelange, have been implicated by a FIFA inquiry cast a shadow over the world governing body.

Blatter was cleared of any misconduct by the FIFA ethics committee but he was described as "clumsy" for failing to recognise a bribe, which was mistakenly paid to FIFA although intended for Havelange (Reuters).

Blatter sounded a triumphant tone following the investigation into the ISL issue, which seemed out of place with a report which connected him to the word 'clumsy'.

“I also note with satisfaction that this report confirms that ‘President Blatter’s conduct could not be classified in any way as misconduct with regard to any ethics rules’"

In the wake of Lord Triesman's allegations in 2011, Blatter distanced himself from the FIFA executive committee and declared "zero tolerance" for corruption, adding that it was his "battle horse".

But the FIFA ethics commission inquiry does open up the Swiss executive to further questions.

Did Blatter know or should he have known that FIFA executives were in receipt of these payments from ISL before the company's demise in 2001?

Should Sepp Blatter resign as FIFA president?

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Blatter is already facing calls to resign with MP Damian Collins, who sits on the culture, media and sport select committee, claiming the FIFA President needs to follow Havelange in standing down (The Independent).

More than anything, though, Blatter now needs to be true to his own words and seek out further bad apples to offset this latest controversy within the FIFA walls.

After the revelations about Havelange, the FIFA ethics committee banned executive committee member Vernon Manilal Fernando for eight years for several breaches of the FIFA ethics code (Goal.com).

After Leoz resigned last week, The Guardian noted that almost half of the executive committee which voted for Russia and Qatar to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Finals respectively in December 2010, had left the world governing body.

Time to saddle up the battle horse, Sepp.

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