Blatter was born in Visp in the Swiss canton of Valais with the given name of Josef. He studied in Saint Maurice, before getting a degree in Business and economics from the University of Lausanne in 1959. Blatter has had a long and varied career, including posts such as head of public relations for the tourist board of his native canton, as well as general secretary of the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation.
Blatter's first wife was Liliane Biner. The couple had a daughter, Corinne, and divorced shortly after. In 1981, Blatter married Barbara Käser, the daughter of Helmut Käser, Blatter's predecessor as secretary general of FIFA. Their marriage lasted ten years until Barbara died from complications after an operation. In 1995, Blatter began dating Ilona Boguska, a Polish friend of his daughter Corinne, before they separated in 2002.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter was cleared of any misconduct, but his predecessor, Brazilian João Havelange, resigned as FIFA's honorary President over his part in the scandal, since Havelange along with former FIFA Executive Committee members Ricardo Teixeira and Dr. Nicolas Leoz were found to have accepted illegal payments between 1992 and May 2000. A week before FIFA's ethics committee announced its findings, 84-year-old Leoz had resigned from his post as President of the South American Football Confederation, citing "health reasons".
The vote took place at the 61st FIFA Congress in Zurich. The only other candidate, Mohammed bin Hammam of Qatar, withdrew from the presidential race on 28 May, just before the vote. Bin Hammam had supported Blatter's 1998 and 2002 presidential campaigns, but admitted that he had fallen out with Blatter over issues within the FIFA Executive Committee. The FIFA ethics committee that investigated bribery claims against Bin Hammam and CONCACAF head Jack Warner announced that Blatter will not face an investigation into claims that he knew of the bribery and did nothing about it, because of a lack of evidence.
Blatter married for a third time on 23 December 2002, to Graziella Bianca, a dolphin trainer who was a friend of his daughter. Their marriage ended in divorce in 2004. Since 2014, he is in a domestic partnership with Linda Barras.
In the 2006 FIFA World Cup, after a controversial second-round match between Portugal and the Netherlands, which saw Referee Valentin Ivanov issue a record 16 yellow cards and four red cards, Blatter was said to have lambasted the officiating Referee, and said that Ivanov should have given himself a yellow card for his poor performance as a Referee. He later claimed to regret his words and promised to officially apologise to Ivanov.
Blatter was criticized in 2007 and 2008 for trying to change European Union employment law regarding the number of foreign players that football clubs could field at any one time. His plans were to set a restriction of five foreign players and having six players from the said team's own nationality. Blatter believed this would help the countries' national sides by having more national players playing in their leagues.
There being no other nominations, Blatter ran unopposed in the ensuing presidential election and was re-elected for a fourth term, with 186 of the 203 votes cast. In his campaign, Blatter had stipulated that, if re-elected in 2011, he would not run again for President. Blatter received criticism for not postponing his 2011 election in which his term as FIFA President was extended through 2015, despite the fact that all other candidates for the role had been suspended or withdrew.
In April 2012 the Council of Europe published a report which stated it would be "difficult to imagine" that Blatter would have been unaware of "significant sums" paid to unnamed FIFA officials by ISSM/ISL in connection with lucrative contracts for World Cup television rights and the subsequent bankruptcy and collapse of ISL in 2001. The Council of Europe report will be considered by over 300 parliamentarians from the 47 Council of Europe member states in Strasbourg.
On 29 April 2013, FIFA's Ethics Committee concluded its investigation into allegations of illegal payments to FIFA officials from the organisation's former marketing partner International Sports and Leisure (ISL), which went bankrupt in 2001, and published its report.
Blatter has attracted criticism from the media, senior football figures and players, due to controversial statements. These include the claim that Latin American countries would applaud John Terry for having an extramarital affair, and that on-field racism could be corrected with a handshake, among others. He also drew criticism at the 2014 FIFA World Cup seeding, when he interrupted a "one-minute silence" for former South-African President Nelson Mandela, who died the day before, after eleven seconds. Michael van Praag, the chairman of the Royal Dutch Football Association, called his behavior "preposterous" and expressed the hope Blatter would not be reelected in 2015.
On 8 October 2015 he was suspended from FIFA for 90 days while investigations into payments made to Michel Platini were conducted. FIFA said in a statement: "The grounds for these decisions are the investigations that are being carried out by the investigatory chamber of the ethics committee." On 21 December, FIFA's ethics committee banned both Blatter and Platini from football for eight years. In February 2016, a FIFA appeals committee upheld the suspension but reduced it from eight years to six.
In October 2015, Blatter and other top FIFA officials were suspended amid the investigation, and in December the independent FIFA Ethics Committee ejected Blatter from office and banned him from taking part in any FIFA activities over the following eight years. On 24 February 2016, a FIFA appeals committee upheld the suspension but reduced it from eight years to six. Issa Hayatou served as the acting President of FIFA until an extraordinary FIFA Congress was held in late February, electing Gianni Infantino as the 9th President of FIFA.
In November 2017, American soccer star Hope Solo accused Blatter of sexual assault at the FIFA Ballon d'Or awards in 2013. During an interview with the Portuguese newspaper Expresso, Solo stated she "had Sepp Blatter grab my ass" just before the two presented an award together to Abby Wambach. She stated she "was in shock and completely thrown off. I had to quickly pull myself together to present my team-mate with the biggest award of her career and celebrate with her in that moment, so I completely shifted my focus to Abby." Blatter's spokesman Thomas Renggli stated "This allegation is ridiculous."
Controversy came in the British press when Russia was awarded the 2018 event, with England receiving just two of their "promised" votes; this controversy was dismissed by Blatter as the English showing themselves to be "bad losers". The awarding of the 2022 games to Qatar was also controversial. The illegality of homosexuality in the nation caused Blatter to joke that "I would say they [gay fans] should refrain from any sexual activities", which brought criticism from retired basketball player John Amaechi and gay rights groups.