FIFA President Sepp Blatter said today the allegations of corruption brought against 14 people "bring shame and humiliation" to the global soccer organization.
"There can be no place for corruption of any kind," Blatter said in Zurich.
In a series of overnight busts on Wednesday, authorities arrested high-ranking FIFA officials over allegations of vast racketeering and corruption involving more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks spanning two decades in soccer’s controversial governing body, law enforcement officials said.
In all, 14 people, which includes nine current or former FIFA figures and five involved in sports marketing, have been charged by the Department of Justice for allegedly “foster[ing] a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest sport in the world,” as FBI Director James Comey put it. Police also executed a search warrant at a location in Miami related to the investigation.
Many have called for Blatter -- who is up for re-election for a fifth-term as FIFA president on Friday -- to resign. Blatter was not one of the men indicted in the case.
“The events of yesterday have cast a long shadow over football,” he said. “We cannot allow the reputation of football and FIFA to be dragged through the mud.”
Blatter also pledged that FIFA will cooperate with the investigations and vowed to work to restore trust in the organization.
"Let this be the turning point. More needs to be done to be sure everyone in football behaves responsibly and ethically,” Blatter said.
The investigation grew out of allegations of payoffs to officials who decided where to hold the next two World Cups, the biggest international event in sports, that landed the games in Russia for 2018 and Qatar in 2022, according to three senior U.S. law enforcement officials. The U.S. was runner-up to Qatar’s win.
The overall alleged wrongdoing reaches back as far as 1991, and in 2004 corruption purportedly played a role in the process of deciding who would host the 2010 World Cup, an honor that eventually fell to South Africa, according to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. An indictment unsealed today lays out other alleged bribery schemes, including some involving high-dollar deals for marketing and broadcasting rights related to various tournaments.
“In short, these individuals, through these organizations, engaged in bribery to decide who would televise games, where the games would be held and who would run the organization overseeing organized soccer worldwide,” Lynch said at a press conference Wednesday in New York.
Lynch said that in one example, a single FIFA executive is suspected of amassing a “personal fortune” by taking over $10 million in bribes over a 19-year period.
IRS Chief Criminal Investigator Richard Weber dubbed the scandal the "World Cup of Fraud" and said the U.S. was issuing FIFA a "red card," a reference to penalties given out in soccer games for egregious infractions.
“This organization has been lawless, doing whatever they want for years. This is the way they do business,” Christopher Fusco, a former prosecutor and sports analyst, told ABC News. “Selecting Qatar [to host the 2022 World Cup] was the straw that broke the camel’s back."