Sepp Blatter’s 17-year reign as FIFA president could come to an inglorious end this week as world football’s corruption scandal threatens to bring down the sport’s most powerful man.
The 79-year-old was already set to quit in February next year, but having been placed under a criminal investigation by Swiss authorities, the end could come sooner.
Sources suggest that the veteran administrator faces an ethics committee probe this week and could even be suspended.
Others predict he may even be tempted to resign with immediate effect.
FIFA Ethics committee spokesman Andreas Bantel told AFP he could not comment on individual cases, and refused to confirm reports that the committee had opened a probe against Blatter as well as UEFA president Michel Platini, who is a candidate to take over the world ruling body.
But he emphasised that “if there is an initial suspicion, the Investigatory Chamber of the Ethics Committee initiates formal proceedings.”
“These rules apply to all people in football regardless of their position or name.”
Swiss investigators swept into FIFA’s headquarters on Friday as they turned their attention to Blatter and Platini.
Authorities said a criminal investigation had been opened against Blatter on suspicion of criminal mismanagement, while Platini had come under scrutiny over a multi-million-dollar payment.
Swiss prosecutors said Blatter was being investigated over the 2005 sale of World Cup television rights to the Caribbean Football Union, then run by his former ally Jack Warner, a deal which had been “unfavourable for FIFA”.
Blatter, who has denied any wrongdoing, was also suspected of making a “disloyal payment” of $US2 million ($A2.85 million) to Platini in February 2011 allegedly made for work the Frenchman carried out for FIFA between 1999 and 2002.
The UEFA chief defended the payment as compensation for work he conducted under contract with FIFA, but did not explain why it arrived nearly a decade after he completed the work.
Friday’s stunning developments came after months of probes following raids in Zurich which led to the indictment of more than a dozen top officials.
Jordanian Prince Ali bin al Hussein, a candidate to succeed Blatter, said the suspicions against FIFA’s veteran leader highlighted “the need for new leadership that can restore the credibility of FIFA”.
Media speculation over the weekend had moved on from damning the scandal to demands for Blatter’s head to roll.
On Sunday, the SonntagsZeitung weekly wrote, citing an inside source: “If Blatter does not step down himself, he will be suspended within days”.
However, a former FIFA insider, who requested anonymity, told AFP that a probe by the ethics committee did not necessarily mean Blatter would face suspension.
“It is not automatic, neither for him, nor Platini,” he said.