Sepp Blatter has sensationally quit amid the bribery scandal that has consumed FIFA.
In an astonishing announcement at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Blatter revealed that he is walking away after 17 years as the most powerful man in football.
At a hastily organised press conference in Zurich this evening, Blatter said: ‘I have been reflecting deeply about my presidency and about the forty years in which my life has been inextricably bound to FIFA and the great sport of football. I cherish FIFA more than anything and I want to do only what is best for FIFA and for football.
‘I felt compelled to stand for re-election, as I believed that this was the best thing for the organisation. That election is over but FIFA’s challenges are not. FIFA needs a profound overhaul.
‘While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football – the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at FIFA.
‘Therefore, I have decided to lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective Congress. I will continue to exercise my functions as FIFA President until that election.
‘The next ordinary FIFA Congress will take place on 13 May 2016 in Mexico City. This would create unnecessary delay and I will urge the Executive Committee to organise an Extraordinary Congress for the election of my successor at the earliest opportunity.
‘This will need to be done in line with FIFA’s statutes and we just allow enough time for the best candidates to present themselves and to campaign.
‘Since I shall not be a candidate, and am therefore now free from the constraints that elections inevitably impose, I shall be able to focus on driving far-reaching, fundamental reforms that transcend our previous efforts.
‘For years, we have worked hard to put in place administrative reforms, but it is plain to me that while these must continue, they are not enough.
‘The Executive Committee includes representatives of confederations over whom we have no control, but for whose actions FIFA is held responsible. We need deep-rooted structural change.
‘The size of the Executive Committee must be reduced and its members should be elected through the FIFA Congress.
‘The integrity checks for all Executive Committee members must be organised centrally through FIFA and not through the confederations. We need term limits not only for the president but for all members of the Executive Committee.
‘I have fought for these changes before and, as everyone knows, my efforts have been blocked.
‘This time, I will succeed. I cannot do this alone. I have asked Domenico Scala to oversee the introduction and implementation of these and other measures.
‘[Domenico Scala] is the Independent Chairman of our Audit and Compliance Committee elected by the FIFA Congress.
‘He is also the Chairman of the ad hoc Electoral Committee and, as such, he will oversee the election of my successor.
‘Mr. Scala enjoys the confidence of a wide range of constituents within and outside of FIFA and has all the knowledge and experience necessary to help tackle these major reforms.
‘It is my deep care for FIFA and its interests, which I hold very dear, that has led me to take this decision.
‘I would like to thank those who have always supported me in a constructive and loyal manner as President of FIFA and who have done so much for the game that we all love.
‘What matters to me more than anything is that when all of this is over, football is the winner.’
Blatter is currently under the microscope as the FBI investigate whether bribes were authorised by the world governing body.
It comes on the day FIFA was plunged into fresh turmoil after an explosive letter appeared to contradict its claims that Sepp Blatter’s right-hand man was not involved in the payment of an alleged $10million bribe.
The payment is at the heart of an FBI probe which claims the money was given to disgraced former vice-president Jack Warner and his deputy Chuck Blazer in return for them voting for the 2010 World Cup to be played in South Africa.
Secretary general Jerome Valcke was last night suspected of signing off the payment, but FIFA issued a statement this morning robustly denying he had any involvement.
They insisted it was instead authorised by Julio Grondona, the former finance chief and Blatter’s long-time ally who died last year.
However, just an hour later, a letter from the South African Football Association emerged that appeared to blow apart those claims.