PRIME Minister David Cameron has urged under-fire Fifa president Sepp Blatter to step aside, saying “the sooner that happens the better”.
Mr Cameron’s strongly-worded comments came after the Serious Fraud Office announced it was assessing “material in its possession” relating to allegations of corruption at the heart of world football’s governing body.
Barclays, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank were allegedly used to transfer cash as part of the conspiracy, US prosecutors allege.
The three British-based international banks were named on the indictment released by the US Department of Justice, which charged a total of 18 people over alleged bribes totalling more than 150 million US dollars (£98 million) for television rights, sponsorship deals and World Cup votes.
Speaking in Berlin about Mr Blatter, the PM said: “In my view he should go. You cannot have accusations of corruption at this level and on this scale in this organisation and pretend that the person currently leading it is the right person to take it forward. That cannot be the case.
“Frankly what we have seen is the ugly side of the beautiful game and he should go.
“And the sooner that happens the better and the faster that organisation can start to rebuild its credibility which is so important because so many people around the world want to see this game properly managed, properly looked after so we can all enjoy the World Cups of the future.”
Mr Cameron’s comments come as Fifa members meet in Zurich to decide whether to vote Mr Blatter in for a fifth term in the wake of corruption allegations.
International football has been plunged into crisis following claims of “rampant, systematic and deep-rooted” corruption at the heart of Fifa.
Football leaders and politicians have called for Mr Blatter to resign after 18 people were arrested in connection with the allegations.
But Mr Blatter is determined to hang on to his position, and questioned the timing of the raids and arrests, just two days before Fifa presidential elections.
He told delegates: “The events of this week unleashed a storm.
“It was even questioned whether this Congress would go ahead but I am appealing for unity and team spirit to tackle the problems that have been created and to solve them.
“It will not be done in a single day, it will take some time.
“The important point today is to move ahead - and the important point is transparency. We have a problem to solve.”
The Fifa congress was hit by a bomb scare, causing hundreds of delegates to be cleared form the hall.
Delegates from the 209 associations were told they were not permitted to remain in the hall during a 90-minute lunch break at the congress in Zurich.
Mr Blatter claimed that Fifa would not be in crisis if countries other than Russia and Qatar had won the vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup, in a swipe at the corruption and vote-rigging allegations.
His comment appeared to be a reference to the United States and England losing out in the bidding process.
In a speech at the opening of the congress meeting today, he said: “They call into question 2018 and 2022.
“On December 2 2010, here in Zurich, when we decided on the two World Cups in one session, if two other countries had emerged from the envelope, I think we would not have these problems today.
“But we can’t go back in time, we are not prophets, we can’t say what would have happened.”
Most of the media investigations into Fifa have come from Britain, while it is the US justice authorities that sparked the current crisis.
The charges allege that bribes totalling more than 150 million US dollars (£98 million) were paid for television rights, sponsorship deals and World Cup votes.
A second and separate investigation is being carried out by Swiss authorities over the criminal mismanagement of the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin criticised the American indictments and claimed they were designed to undermine Mr Blatter’s re-election as president - he is facing Prince Ali of Jordan in the vote later today.
Mr Cameron, who is in Germany to discuss EU reform with Chancellor Angela Merkel, said it was “unthinkable” that Mr Blatter should stay.
Asked whether the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups should be reopened, he said he would be “guided” by the chairman of the Football Association, Greg Dyke.
Mr Dyke earlier suggested that he would not rule out a boycott of the major football tournaments if Mr Blatter remains as leader.