Blatter Steps Down

By Rowan Williams
  •     – FIFA President Sepp Blatter resigns in corruption probe
  • – Hopes fade for those trapped in China cruise disaster
  • – Andy Coulson acquitted of perjury charges


Sepp Blatter has resigned as President of world football body FIFA, just hours before reports emerged from US sources of a widening US investigation into corruption at FIFA. At a snap press conference on Tuesday night, Blatter stated that while he had been re-elected as President on Friday, he did not feel he had “a mandate from the entire world of football”. Blatter said he would continue to serve as FIFA President until the election of a successor at a special FIFA congress, expected to be held between December 2015 and March 2016. Representatives of European football body UEFA have welcomed the resignation. Blatter’s resignation throws FIFA into further turmoil, after US and Swiss authorities arrested several FIFA officials in Zurich on corruption charges. US investigators have said they hope to gain the cooperation of FIFA officials now under indictment in a bid to build a case against Blatter. On Wednesday, Interpol also released a list of six persons wanted in connection with the corruption investigation. The six names had all featured on the list of 14 officials indicted last week by the US, and include former FIFA executive Jack Warner.

Hopes are fading for over 400 people that remain trapped on the capsized Eastern Star cruise ship in Hubei province, China. 18 people are now confirmed to have died on the ship, with 14 people rescued. The ship is now known to have had 456 passengers on board, many of them elderly. Rescue teams are continuing to search for survivors within air pockets inside the ship’s hull, but Chinese authorities are already preparing for the disaster to be the country’s worst shipping disaster since the 1940s. Divers have had to resort to feeling through the capsized vessel with their hands due to poor visibility in the water. Questions are continuing to be asked about possible causes of the ship’s capsizing: one survivor, Zhang Hui, described the ship’s rapid tilting during a sudden storm. Chinese meteorologists have reported that a sudden, violent storm had hit the area at the time of the ship’s capsizing.

Andy Coulson has been cleared of committing perjury during a trial in 2010. The former News of the World Editor and Conservative Party Director of Communications had been accused by the Crown of lying over his knowledge of phone hacking at the News of the World during the trial of former MSP Tommy Sheridan. Coulson’s perjury trial collapsed after his defence team successfully argued that there was no case to answer for. Judge Lord Burns ruled that the Crown had failed to show that the evidence given by Coulson during Sheridan’s trial had been relevant to that trial. Judge Lords Burns explained that a perjury case required that a lie told in court be relevant to the trial – in the case of Coulson, Judge Lord Burns ruled that Coulson’s comments had not been relevant. Coulson had been acquitted on Monday, with the news announced on Wednesday after the Crown decided it would not appeal the verdict.

The Papers

The resignation of Sepp Blatter as President of world football body FIFA dominates headlines today. The Guardian leads with the headline “Downfall: Blatter walks away”, reporting that the Blatter resigned at an “emergency press conference”. His decision to resign was taken as the FBI’s “anti-fraud net” closed in. The Daily Telegraph writes in its headline that Blatter’s resignation has left the “Russia and Qatar World Cups in doubt”. Blatter was “forced out”, the paper writes, adding that the resignation has prompted “speculation that corruption investigators have found the ‘smoking gun’” against Blatter. The Times writes in its headline that Blatter has left the Russia and Qatar World Cups “in meltdown”. The corruption scandal has “finally consumed” the FIFA President, the paper reports. Critics “immediately called for a rerun of the votes” for the next two World Cups after the resignation. The Independent writes in its headline that the FBI is investigating Blatter, as “Football prepares for more shocking revelations”. The investigation into Blatter was reported by the New York Times by several US officials, the paper writes. In other news, the Financial Times reports that creditors are uniting “to raise heat on Greece over new rescue plan”. Lenders are pushing Athens to “accept tough economic reforms by Friday” in order to receive £7.2 billion in financial aid.

British Media on China

On the Eastern Star disaster: the capsizing of the Eastern Star continues to receive wide coverage from the UK media. The BBC features several articles on the disaster, including pieces on the stories of survivors and the sudden storm reported to be behind the crash. Authorities have made it difficult to report from the scene of the disaster, the BBC writes. The Guardian writes in its main piece on the story that “Hundreds of coffins” are being prepared following the disaster. The Independent describes a “desperate battle” for survivors, and also features a video reporting to show the “last moments” of the Eastern Star before it capsized. The Daily Telegraph also features the video, along with an analysis piece showing how the capsizing compares to others among “Asia’s worst nautical disasters”.

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