Sepp Blatter rocked the world of soccer on Tuesday by saying he would step down as FIFA president in the wake of a corruption investigation that now includes the 79-year-old chief himself.
Blatter, who has led soccer's world governing body since 1998, is being investigated by US prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a person who spoke on condition of anonymity told Reuters late on Tuesday. An FBI spokesman declined comment.
News of Blatter's investigation was earlier reported by The New York Times and ABC News. Blatter has not been charged with any wrongdoing. FIFA did not respond to a request for comment on Blatter being under investigation.
Blatter, a Swiss national who has been a dominant presence at FIFA for decades, announced his decision to step down at a hastily arranged news conference in Zurich, six days after police raided a hotel in the city and arrested several FIFA officials - and just four days after he was re-elected to a fifth term as FIFA president.
He said an election to choose a new president would be held as soon as possible, though a FIFA official said it would probably not take place until at least December.
"FIFA needs profound restructuring," Blatter said. "I decided to stand again to be elected because I was convinced it was the best option for football. Although the members of FIFA gave me a new mandate, this mandate does not seem to be supported by everyone in the world."
Critics, Sponsors Welcome Move
Blatter's decision to step down as FIFA is mired in the worst crisis in its history was welcomed by his critics.
European football federation chief Michel Platini, a French former international player and favourite to succeed Blatter as FIFA president, said: "It was a difficult decision, a brave decision, and the right decision."
The second favourite on the list, Jordan's Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, who withdrew from last week's election after winning 73 votes to Blatter's 133 in the first round, stopped short of confirming he would run again. Asked if there should be a fresh start at FIFA, he told Britain's Channel 4 News: "I'm willing to help."
Greg Dyke, chairman of the English Football Association and one of Blatter's most outspoken critics, said it was "good news for world football," but then questioned Blatter's motive.
"Who got him? Who shot him?" he asked. "I don't believe he went for any sort of moral basis so something has happened between then and now which means he has to resign."
New Zealand Football Chief Executive Andy Martin told Reuters that Blatter's resignation would help football rebuild its tattered reputation.
"This has lifted a cloud and taken away a lot of the concerns of stakeholders and their association with the sport," he said. "We now want a strong collaborative leader who can bring the football world together and can bring out the change that the game has been crying out for."
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC), which has been a staunch ally of Blatter, said on Wednesday it was monitoring the situation and would discuss internally the "best way forward for both FIFA and world football."