Was Blatter right to be defiant?


LONDON, England, June 1- Given the context and timing to FIFA's press conference on Monday, you would have been forgiven for thinking an important announcement was due to be made.

President Sepp Blatter – who will be subject to a presidential election vote on Wednesday – has seen his Zurich-based organization beset by a multitude of serious allegations regarding corruption in recent times.

In November, two of the 24-man executive committee were suspended and fined ahead of a ballot to decide the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup. Both Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii had breached FIFA’s ethical codes, Adamu was found guilty of selling his vote.

The bad press continued when executive committee member Chuck Blazer tabled a report containing bribery allegations concerning the presidential bid of Blatter’s only rival Mohamed Bin Hammam (the head of the Asian Football Confederation) and fellow Exco member Jack Warner.

Hours before the charges were due to be heard by FIFA’s Ethics Committee in Zurich, Bin Hammam pulled out of the race to become president before both men were suspended.

The charges were vehemently denied by the accused with an angry Warner threatening to unleash a "football tsunami" in retaliation to the dirtying of his name.

Hardly a situation of tranquillity and unity you may think. The serious nature of the allegations posed also raised serious questions in need of answer. Would Blatter continue with the election despite the fact, and for the second-time running, he was now the only contender?

Had the allegations surrounding Bin Hammam made the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar invalid? How badly did he feel FIFA had been tarnished by the recent developments? What was his reply to calls from critics that he should leave his post?

There was anticipation that all of these questions would be tackled, but the world’s press who were gathered were left disappointed as the soccer chief ran around the issues. Blatter remained defiant and refused to talk about the elephant in the room.

After his surreal speech a beleaguered journalist asked for Blatter’s response to the current "crisis" FIFA find themselves in. Blatter replied that he did not know of a crisis in football. His answers drew audible laughter from the press in attendance.

When asked how he felt about the corruption that had transpired under his watch he jokingly looked at his wristwatch and shrugged. The behaviour was ill-judged at best, arrogant at worst.

"Blatter has lost the respect of the media by failing to understand the gravity of the situation – the world’s press wanted answers and he refused to give them that. There were at least 20 more people wanting to ask questions, because his speech had failed to address the issues, but they didn’t get a shot," CNN’s Pedro Pinto – who was at the press conference – said.

"There was a laugh after most answers that Blatter gave and a feeling of ridicule, a feeling that he was ignoring the serious nature of the allegations surrounding FIFA at the moment," Pinto added.

The vote to elect the new president of the most powerful governing body in sport will go-ahead according to Blatter unless two thirds of the FIFA congress – one in which all associations of the world are represented – vote against proceeding with the ballot. Unless this unlikely event happens, Blatter will have a mandate to serve another four years in the role.

He has vowed to make his organization more transparent and to rebuild the reputation of FIFA, but many will now ask if he is the right man to lead the body into a new era.

Ben Wyatt (CNN Digital Sport Producer)