Fifa: Sepp Blatter fires PR chief over joke on television

Walter De Gregorio
Walter De Gregorio has held the position of Fifa's director of communications since September 2011

Fifa communications director Walter De Gregorio has been sacked after sealing his fate with a joke about the governing body on Swiss TV.

Gregorio told Swiss chat show Schawinski: "The Fifa president, secretary general and communications director are all travelling in a car. Who's driving? The police."

Fifa announced in a statement that De Gregorio had "relinquished his office".

But the BBC understands he was asked to leave by president Sepp Blatter.

Blatter himself announced earlier this month that he would stand down as Fifa president following a new election, just two days after winning re-election for a fifth term.

That followed the arrest of seven top Fifa officials in a massive FBI corruption probe.

De Gregorio, 50, who has held the role since September 2011, is also understood to have clashed with Blatter after a disagreement with one of the president's allies.

Fifa said in its statement that De Gregorio would remain with the organisation on a consultancy basis until the end of the year.

In other developments on Thursday, the European Parliament called for Blatter to step down immediately. It supported a motion saying the corruption investigations had damaged the sport's integrity and that Blatter's failure to go now would hamper attempts to reform the organisation.

Fifa said it was "perplexed" by the vote. It then announced it had called a special meeting for 20 July to fix a date to select Blatter's replacement - which it expects to take place between December this year and February 2016.

The BBC has also learnt diplomatic tensions between Qatar and Britain were raised last week following comments by John Whittingdale MP - the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

He had indicated England could be ready to step in to host the 2022 World Cup if Fifa ever stripped Qatar of the tournament.

It is understood those comments prompted officials at the Qatar Embassy in London to call the Foreign Office to complain. Foreign Office officials are thought to have provided assurances that Whittingdale's comments were not government policy.

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