Speculation is rising about whether FIFA President Sepp Blatter will really step away from the top of the world’s soccer governing body, after a Swiss newspaper quoted him suggesting he planned to run again for president at the group’s extraordinary election in the coming months.
“Only those who know the past can understand the present and shape the future,” Mr. Blatter said, speaking at the site of a new FIFA museum in Zurich. “I have not resigned, but made my mandate available at an extraordinary congress.”
The comments were first reported by the Swiss newspaper Blick and confirmed by FIFA. The organization added that they remained in line with his speech on June 2 when he promised to “lay down lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective Congress” where he would not be a candidate. The congress is expected to be held in December—FIFA will meet on July 20 to nail down the date of the election.
FIFA declined to clarify Mr. Blatter’s comments further.
Mr. Blatter’s June 2 speech came less than a week after the disclosure of twin U.S. and Swiss investigations into alleged corruption by FIFA executives and the processes to allocate hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Those led to the arrests of 14 people, including several FIFA officials. Mr. Blatter wasn’t named in either probe.
Despite the burgeoning scandal, he was elected to a fifth consecutive term in office on May 29 by a majority of 133 of FIFA’s 209 voters.
‘Only those who know the past can understand the present and shape the future’
“While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football,” Mr. Blatter said on June 2, as he faced mounting pressure from sponsors and high-ranking officials.
One of the first people to suggest publicly that Mr. Blatter would stick around and run again was Klaus Stohlker, the Swiss public relations consultant who acted as an adviser to Mr. Blatter and ran his successful election campaign through the spring.
“He will not resign. He will be here. He will do his duty. He will create a new FIFA,” Mr. Stohlker said. “There are several groups, even inside FIFA. Some want to strengthen the idea he has resigned. Others, like the president, have not the same opinion.”
Earlier this month, FIFA distanced itself from Mr. Stohlker, insisting that he no longer spoke for Mr. Blatter and hasn’t held any official role with him since May 31.
Mr. Blatter, 79, has been in charge of FIFA since his first election in 1998. During that time, he has overseen its growth into a multibillion-dollar organization built on the quadrennial cash cow that is the World Cup.
“He feels from hour to hour, from day to day, better,” Mr. Stohlker said.-WSJ