European football’s governing body UEFA urged FIFA to postpone presidential elections, following the unraveling of twin corruption inquiries by Swiss and US authorities and arrest of seven high level FIFA officials earlier on Wednesday.
"We strongly believe the FIFA Congress should be postponed with new FIFA presidential elections to be organised within the next six months," UEFA Secretary General Gianni Infantino told reporters on Wednesday.
FIFA’s presidential elections are scheduled for coming Friday where incumbent Sepp Blatter is set to face Jordan's Prince Ali bin Al Hussein for a fifth term in office.
The elections are overshadowed by unrevealing of two separate investigations by the US and Swiss authorities blaming high ranking FIFA officials with corruption charges related to organisation's business dealings and awarding process of 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Seven FIFA officials, including Vice President Jeffrey Webb, were detained in Zurich on Wednesday morning as part of a joint investigation by US Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The US authorities charged 14 people, including nine officials from FIFA, with 47 accounts of corruption acts amounting up to $150 million in bribes committed over the course of more than 20 years.
Separately, Swiss police seized files and emails at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich as they opened an investigation into the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.
FIFA announced it suspended 11 people, including two of its vice presidents, from all soccer-related activities on Wednesday evening.
“These events show that once again corruption is deeply rooted in FIFA's culture. There is a need for the whole of FIFA to be rebooted and for a real reform to be carried out,” Infantino said in UEFA statement.
Russia, which is to host 2018 World Cup that is under investigation, rejected any allegation of corruption in the process of awarding the organisation.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who is also a FIFA executive committee member, told The Associated Press that "we've got nothing to hide" and "we're prepared to show everything."
FIFA President Sepp Blatter, whose name is not included among the indicted, said “We welcome the actions and the investigations by the US and Swiss authorities and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football,” in a statement on Wednesday evening.
Blatter, however, did not respond to the UEFA’s demand to postpone the election on Friday where 209 member associations are to vote for the new president of FIFA.
US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the timing of the investigations’ unveiling is not related to the upcoming elections.
Blatter's only challenger, Prince Ali bin al Hussein, a FIFA vice president from Jordan, called the arrests "a sad day for football.”
"We cannot continue with the crisis in FIFA, a crisis that has been ongoing and is not just relevant to the events of today," the Jordanian prince said.