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Blatter vows to restore FIFA's credibility

From Alex Thomas, CNN
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Blatter: Rebuilding FIFA's reputation
  • Sepp Blatter admits that FIFA's reputation has been tainted by recent scandals
  • President says FIFA's financial wealth has brought in "a lot of devils"
  • But he rules out blanket life bans for any FIFA members guilty of corruption
  • Henry Kissinger and Placido Domingo to form part of new "solutions committee"

(CNN) -- Sepp Blatter has told CNN that his main aim in his fourth and final term as FIFA president is to restore the battered credibility of world football's governing body.

The 75-year-old was re-elected unopposed as head of the organization on June 1 after the only other candidate, Asian Federation chief Mohamed Bin Hammam, pulled out of the race before being provisionally suspended by FIFA over bribery allegations.

The vote drew widespread criticism as Blatter received 186 votes from football's 208 member associations, with critics saying it should not have gone ahead until the investigation into Hammam and FIFA vice-president Jack Warner -- who was also subject to suspension -- had been completed.

"I have said 'zero tolerance' is one thing, but I have also said the social and cultural implementation of football is important -- but now it's to rebuild the image of FIFA, that's number one, and I have already started," Blatter told CNN in his first sit-down interview since the election.

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"We are now somewhere where football needs a little bit more credibility because we came building up football, bringing so much money in to this game.

"Automatically a lot of devils came in to the game and now we are in a situation where we have to go forward and we have to cut all these allegations, criticism, whatever. We can't do it in one day, but we will do it."

Blatter -- who described his election win as "the title without glory" and called the ruling body "my FIFA" -- ruled out blanket life bans for any FIFA member found guilty of corruption.

We are now somewhere where football needs a little bit more credibility ... A lot of devils came in to the game
--Sepp Blatter

"It's not a killing instinct that we have to kill people! Zero tolerance means that if you commit something outside the play of field, you will have a punishment," the Swiss administrator said.

"But it can be a yellow card, it can be a red card, it can be a suspension for two games, three games ... lifetime."

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Despite recent turmoil and opposition to Blatter in the race for the presidency, the Swiss insisted that both Hammam and Warner were longtime friends who remain on good terms.

"We are friends, but friends going together when it is in the interest of some of the people. For me, going together with people it's only for the interest of FIFA because I have represented FIFA for 36 years -- it's my FIFA," Blatter said.

Warner has since backed down, for legal reasons, on threats to release "a football tsunami" by making public his email correspondence with Blatter.

"This is a question of character. If you have a problem inside your family you are not going to disclose if there is anything to be disclosed to the public," Blatter said.

"But I don't know what he means by the tsunami! It's easy to say, it's like allegations made by (England's former 2018 bid leader) Lord Triesman -- these are allegations and there is no evidence, so if somebody says it's a tsunami, you know there are also very little tsunamis."

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Blatter said he would not open an investigation into the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar -- Hammam's native country, which has been accused of bribing delegates ahead of last December's controversial vote -- unless his proposed new "solutions committee" or FIFA's existing ethics panel recommended such a probe.

FIFA's own secretary general Jerome Valcke wrote an email suggesting that Qatar's financial clout had been behind its success.

"Let me work now on this new approach of the ethics committee, let me work with this committee of solutions. And if this committee of solutions or the ethics committee have the impression that they should do something then let them take the decisions," Blatter said.

Blatter has vowed to bring in a panel of experts to form the solutions committee and help address FIFA's problems, including 88-year-old former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff, 64, and 70-year-old opera great Placido Domingo.

"These gentlemen are more or less advisers. They are not the experts but advisers, and what they should be also is the kind of council of wisdom -- which my Executive Committee would not like because they think they are the council of wisdom," Blatter said.

"Placido Domingo will be part -- he is happy, he is proud that he is part -- as Kissinger also! People say he (Kissinger) is an old man, but he is a wise man."

The solutions committee will be chaired by a FIFA official, with Blatter dismissing suggestions that it should be an entirely independent body.

"The football family has asked me to solve the solution inside FIFA and not outside FIFA," he said. "And if we have to go and open our borders and say everyone can come in ... we are a very organized institution with 208 associations, six continents. I've put already zero tolerance in the agenda!"