FIFA Delegate: Indictment 'Brought A Cloud' On Upcoming Presidential Vote
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
The head of soccer's governing organization made clear today that he plans on sticking around. Sepp Blatter spoke at opening ceremony of FIFA's annual congress a day after seven of its officials were arrested on corruption charges and a day before he stands for reelection. Blatter first won the presidency in 1998. He told the FIFA congress today, he could not monitor everyone all the time.
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SEPP BLATTER: But it must fall to me to bear the responsibility for the reputation and well-being of our organization and to find a way forward to fix things.
SIEGEL: Well, now we're going to hear from one of the people who will cast a vote on whether Sepp Blatter deserves another term as president of FIFA. Joining us from Zurich is the president of the Barbados Football Association, Randolph Harris. Mr. Harris, welcome to the program.
RANDOLPH HARRIS: Thank you, and thanks for having me.
SIEGEL: Tell us, first, your reaction to the U.S. indictment that was unsealed yesterday.
HARRIS: Well, obviously, I could only describe it as a devastating blow. We were shocked by the developments.
SIEGEL: You say you were shocked. There have been any number of journalistic investigations, reports of corruption within FIFA. How can one be shocked at this point?
HARRIS: We are shocked because of the persons who were arrested yesterday and because we had no inkling that they were involved in anything untoward as far as the football is concerned.
SIEGEL: Does all of that untoward behavior - does it reflect Sepp Blatter, and would you say, based on these indictments, Mr. Blatter should be thanked for his service and retired from the presidency?
HARRIS: Well, I don't know if I agree with that kind of reasoning. The thing about it is, Mr. Blatter is the head of FIFA, which is a worldwide organization. The persons who were indicted by the United States authorities yesterday are part of one confederation which Mr. Blatter does not oversee on a day-to-day basis.
SIEGEL: That's the confederation that you're a member of, representing Barbados.
HARRIS: Of course.
SIEGEL: There are big corporations that sponsor FIFA tournaments, including the World Cup, that are very concerned about what's happened. How much do the opinions of Visa or McDonald's count as you think about the future of FIFA and its leadership?
HARRIS: Those sponsors are very, very important to the game. And as you know, we have some of those sponsors operating in our small countries. And it is important to us that these sponsors think that they are doing well for the countries and that their names are being held in high esteem.
SIEGEL: Will it influence your vote on the presidency?
HARRIS: At the moment, I have not really made up my mind completely, but I am voting in the best interest of the game. My integrity is the only thing that I have going for me, and I think I'm going to vote for transparency and, of course, for development of the future.
SIEGEL: But considering that the indictment yesterday cited not only misbehavior by a little more than a dozen individuals but also a culture of corruption over the past 20 years, how can you be in favor of transparency and still be in favor of continuing the same regime of leadership at FIFA?
HARRIS: Well, I have not confirmed that I am continuing the same regime of FIFA. I will make that decision tomorrow when I have discussions with some of my member states. But the point about it is - and this is very important - that in all of this, President Blatter has not been named as an accomplice.
SIEGEL: Would you say that there are other heads of national football associations whom you've been speaking with who share your doubts at this moment and are trying to figure out what to do?
HARRIS: Yes. I believe I can say, on the record now, that when we came here on Monday, we were all going to vote on block for President Blatter. I think that was a decision that we made at the Concacaf meeting which was held two months ago in the Bahamas.
SIEGEL: Concacaf being the Western Hemisphere Football Association - Federation.
HARRIS: Yes, yes. But since the development yesterday, it has brought a cloud on to that decision that we made prior to hearing the news. That really devastated us yesterday.
SIEGEL: Well, Mr. Harris, thank you very much for talking with us as you prepare to make that decision.
HARRIS: I thank you for having me, and I'm very grateful.
SIEGEL: That's Randolph Harris who is the president of the Barbados Football Association. He'll be one of the members voting on the presidency of FIFA tomorrow in Switzerland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.