A fourth four-year term for 75-year-old Sepp Blatter as president of FIFA, Federation Internationale de Football Association, was not only a vote for continuity. It was also a mandate for reform of world football's governing body. The election at the 61st congress of FIFA in Zurich took place in difficult, unpleasant circumstances with the only other candidate, Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar, withdrawing from the race after he was suspended on charges of attempting to bribe member associations to back him. But with Mr. Blatter overcoming an inane bid by the English Football Association to postpone the election on the ground it was a one-horse race, and obtaining the support of an overwhelming majority for his re-election, the focus is now again on the tasks and challenges ahead. England's FA found support back home among British politicians, the media, and the fans — but not in Zurich where it mattered. The seasoned Mr. Blatter knew better than to gloat over his victory. After the election, he spoke of cleaning up administration and promised to steer the ship “back onto the right course in clear, transparent waters.” He pushed for a strengthened FIFA Ethics Committee whose members will now be chosen by the whole congress. With allegations over the bribery bid being met with counter-allegations, the revamped Ethics Committee could infuse greater confidence in the world body's efforts to deal with corruption and malpractice. Mr. Blatter also announced the formation of a high-powered corporate governance and compliance committee, which will be headed by no less than Henry Kissinger. If necessary, an extraordinary congress will be convened to review the findings of the committee and “restore FIFA's credibility.”
One of Mr. Blatter's stand-out achievements, after he took over from Joao Havelange in 1998, is the successful hosting of the World Cup outside of Europe and the Americas. After the first World Cup in Asia (co-hosted by South Korea and Japan in 2002), South Africa 2010 under his presidency was a huge success, not only in terms of the football on display, but also in terms of the organisation of the event. To Mr. Blatter goes the credit of expanding the World Cup to include 32 teams (from 24), and giving a chance to more teams from different continents to compete in the premier event. Thus it was hardly surprising that among the first proposals he got adopted by the congress on his re-election was a radical change in rules, which now give each of the organisation's 208 members a vote in choosing the World Cup host. Mr. Blatter deserves and needs all the support he can get in the efforts to reform FIFA and lead the world's best-loved game to new heights.