Tue | Aug 22, 2017

FIFA's top spokesman leaves job, Blatter urged to do same

Published:Friday | June 12, 2015 | 6:00 AM
Walter De Gregorio, FIFA director of communications and public affairs.

GENEVA (AP):

FIFA's top spokesman left his job yesterday hours after Sepp Blatter was urged to do the same by the European Parliament.

FIFA responded by announcing that its executive committee will meet on July 20 in Zurich to decide when from December to February the election to decide Blatter's successor should be held.

That meeting will also discuss how to reform FIFA after American and Swiss corruption investigations unleashed turmoil on the organisation two weeks ago.

The latest upheaval saw communications director Walter De Gregorio, closely tied to the embattled president since 2011, abruptly exiting FIFA three days after telling a joke about soccer's governing body on a TV talk show.

Still, Blatter praised FIFA's handling of the ongoing corruption crisis in the organisation's in-house magazine.

"FIFA is going through difficult times," Blatter said in an excerpt from his column released yesterday. "This makes me all the more proud that our organisation runs smoothly in a crisis."

Blatter appeared to be referring to the smooth-running Under-20 and Women's World Cups in New Zealand and Canada. However, in what seemed like strange timing, the advance extract from Blatter's weekly column in a FIFA online magazine was released two hours after De Gregorio's exit was announced.

Timely joke

On Monday, De Gregorio was a guest of host Roger Schawinski on German-language station SRF. Schawinski closed the show by asking the former sports and politics journalist to tell his favourite joke about FIFA.

De Gregorio set up the punchline by saying that the FIFA president, himself, and secretary general Jerome Valcke were in a car, so who was driving?

After a pause for the host to comment, De Gregorio gave the answer: "The police."

Earlier, lawmakers from 28 European nations meeting in Strasbourg, France, voted on a resolution calling for Blatter to speed up his announced resignation and let FIFA appoint an interim leader.

"FIFA is perplexed by the European Parliament's resolution," said the Zurich-based soccer body, which is not obliged to heed the parliament and previously dismissed criticism by lawmaker groups, including the Council of Europe.

Blatter is a target of the American investigation of corruption in soccer, and Swiss prosecutors are leading a separate probe into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.

If Blatter left before the election, FIFA rules require senior vice-president Issa Hayatou of Cameroon to step up as interim president.

Yesterday, the European Parliament urged its member states - which do not include Switzerland - to "cooperate fully with all ongoing and future investigations on corrupt practices within FIFA".