| Friday, May 31, 2002 01:16 EST
Zen-Ruffinen to still run World Cup
SEOUL, South Korea -- FIFA president Sepp Blatter succeeded
Friday in removing his most dangerous critic and forced the
withdrawal of legal action against him by members of his executive
Michel Zen-Ruffinen, who accused Blatter of corruption,
financial mismanagement and steering FIFA toward bankruptcy, agreed
to quit as FIFA general secretary on July 4. He'll continue in the
job through the end of the World Cup, which kicked off later Friday
with defending champion France playing Senegal.
Blatter, re-elected for a second four-year term Wednesday
despite a scandal-plagued campaign, also won a crucial battle for
control of the executive committee at Friday's emergency meeting.
He blunted the prospect of criminal action against him as some of
the 11 committee members who initiated legal action in a Swiss
court earlier this month agreed to drop the charges immediately.
Antonio Matarrese of Italy, one of the complainants, has already
resigned from the executive committee. FIFA officials couldn't
immediately confirm how many of the remaining 10 involved in the
lawsuit attended Friday's meeting. The FIFA executive committee
comprises 24 members.
FIFA spokesman Keith Cooper said Zen-Ruffinen and the FIFA
executives had agreed terms on terminating his contract.
Zen-Ruffinen will "continue to be in charge of the operations
of the World Cup,'' said Cooper, reading from a statement. "The
two parties expressed their satisfaction at the decision and the
meeting was held in a positive atmosphere.
"On a proposal from senior vice president Julio Grondona of
Argentina, those present at the meeting of the original 11
executive committee members who had initiated legal proceedings
against Mr. Blatter in Zurich agreed that this legal action will be
Blatter defeated African soccer head Issa Hayatou of Cameroon
139-56 in the presidential election by FIFA member nations.
Zen-Ruffinen, a lawyer and former international referee, was
promoted through FIFA by Blatter. But he spectacularly broke ranks
in early May when he circulated a document detailing his
allegations against Blatter.
He accused his boss of making unauthorized payments to Russia's
soccer chief and a referee from Niger, as well as a string of other
The allegations were jumped upon by Blatter's opponents, and
those 11 executive committee who used them as the basis of the
criminal complaint. Swiss prosecutors had not decided whether to
launch a formal investigation.
Zen-Ruffinen said he was concerned about FIFA's financial
situation for some time, but wanted to try to solve the problem
quietly. He finally spoke out because his belief in the good of
soccer transcended his loyalty to Blatter, he said.
On Wednesday, Zen-Ruffinen said he would not resign. "But I
imagine (Blatter) and the executive committee will wish to part
from my company.''
That will happen on July 4.