EU lawmakers urge FIFA's Blatter to go now

Sepp Blatter addresses a news conference at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland June 2, 2015. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU lawmakers called on FIFA President Sepp Blatter on Thursday to step down immediately, saying that his failure to do so would delay ridding soccer's governing body of its "rampant, systemic and deep-rooted" corruption.

The European Parliament voted by a clear show of hands in favour of an eight-page resolution with a series of demands to clean up the sport. FIFA said in a statement that it was "perplexed," but later announced that the election of a new president would take place between December and February.

The resolution said that the parliament welcomed Blatter's decision to resign last week. But it expressed "serious concern" that he might stay on for nine more months before a new leader is appointed.

Urgent reforms to root out corruption and restore FIFA's credibility could not begin in earnest until then, it said.

"The European Parliament ... therefore calls on FIFA to select, in a transparent and inclusive way, an appropriate interim leader to replace Joseph Blatter forthwith."

The parliament said that corruption within FIFA had seriously damaged the integrity of global football, with a "devastating impact" from the top level of professional soccer to amateur clubs.

It is also calling for FIFA to publish in full the report produced by former U.S. prosecutor Michael Garcia into the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

The parliament said it welcomed comments from the chairman of FIFA's audit and compliance committee, Domenico Scala, that Russia and Qatar could be stripped of World Cup hosting rights if evidence emerged of bribery in the bidding.

Host countries, it said, should abide by international standards in respect of fundamental rights.

During a debate on Wednesday, British Labour MEP Neena Gill said she had little confidence that any reforms in FIFA would actually happen.

"FIFA is perplexed by the European Parliament’s resolution," FIFA said in a statement.

"As is well known, following his re-election, the FIFA President already decided, owing to the special circumstances in which FIFA finds itself, to lay down his mandate at an extraordinary elective Congress.

"The President is focused on ensuring that at this Congress, which he is demanding, imperative reforms are passed and a new President elected."

(Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop, additional reporting by Alexander Saeedy and Brian Homewood; Editing by Larry King)

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