FIFA President Sepp Blatter was re-elected Wednesday with overwhelming support, despite recent allegations of corruption.
Blatter's only opponent, top FIFA executive Mohamed bin Hammam, was suspended prior to the vote over allegations he was offered bribes, along with another FIFA Vice President Jack Warner. Bin Hammam's suspension left Blatter as the sole candidate for the presidency for the second time in succession.
"We will put FIFA, the boat that is FIFA, back onto clear and transparent waters," Blatter said in his acceptance speech at the 61st FIFA Congress at their Zurich headquarters. "It may take a little time, but we will do it.
"I just want to say to you, I'm touched, I'm honored, I thank you. But at the same time, this is a challenge, a new challenge for me. And I accept it because I am with you, and together we will rise to it."
Of the voting delegates, 186 out of 203 chose to support Blatter rather than abstain. Shortly after the ballot, FIFA members also agreed by a large majority to change the way in which World Cup host countries are selected.
In future, all FIFA delegates will vote on potential venues, rather than FIFA's smaller executive committee. Blatter said this change - and others like it - would usher in a new era for the soccer organization.
"Something amazing has happened here today in this unity. We will succeed, with a little time and a lot of courage, energy and confidence - that's what's important; and solidarity," Blatter said at the end of an uncharacteristically short speech.
Suspicions raised on Qatar 2022
Earlier Wednesday, Theo Zwanziger, the head of the German Soccer Federation, called for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the vote that chose tiny oil emirate, Qatar, to host the 2022 World Cup, raising the prospect of a review of the selection process to scrutinize the corruption allegations.
"There is a considerable degree of suspicion that one cannot simply sweep aside, and I would expect that awarding this World Cup under these conditions needs to be re-examined," Zwanziger told German television.
Major FIFA sponsors including Coca-Cola, Adidas, Visa and the airline Emirates have also expressed their concern about the allegations, saying they have tarnished the image of soccer.
Coca-Cola, sponsor of the World Cup since 1978, said it found the claims of vote-buying in the build up to the election of FIFA president "distressing."
"We have every expectation that FIFA will resolve this situation in an expedient and thorough manner," said Petro Kacur, a spokesman for the beverage giant.
Adidas said the repeated allegations of corruption "are neither good for the image of football, nor FIFA itself."
Responding to the concerns, Blatter vowed in his opening remarks at the conference on Wednesday to overhaul the selection system and to have future World Cup venues chosen in a full membership vote, rather than by the executive committee.
Bin Hammam was the only other candidate in the June 1 election for FIFA president. His withdrawal from the race left Blatter unopposed to win his fourth term in the job.
England urged postponement
The English Football Association (FA) on Tuesday called on FIFA to postpone the presidential election, so that "any alternative reforming candidate" had the opportunity to run against Blatter.
Although Blatter was cleared by FIFA's ethics committee of any wrongdoing, the FA said in a statement referring to the executive committee that "a series of allegations relating to FIFA ExCo members made it difficult to support either candidate."
Zwanziger himself is running for a seat on FIFA's executive committee and said he would be willing to look into the corruption charges.
David Bernstein, chairman of the FA, said they would abstain from the FIFA presidential vote since there was "a lack of transparency and accountability" in the organization.
The English FA has been supported by the Scottish FA and is looking for more support from other national organizations.
Under FIFA rules, they needed support from 75 percent of the 208 national members of FIFA's Congress to bring about a postponement of the election.
Beckenbauer calls Blatter 'credible'
German soccer legend Franz Beckenbauer said Wednesday that Blatter was a credible candidate.
"He did a wonderful job. It's not easy. FIFA is like the United Nations: we have 208 members," said Beckenbauer, who is retiring from the executive committee.
Beckenbauer admitted, however, that the corruption allegations were "very, very bad" for the image of soccer.
"It is a disaster for football and I hope when June 1 comes and the election is over that all the discussion about corruption is finished and FIFA can go back to normal," he said.
Author: Gregg Benzow, Catherine Bolsover, Mark Hallam (Reuters, AFP, AP)
Editor: Martin Kuebler