Nothing is ever what it seems with FIFA. On the day its executive committee met for the first time without suspended president Sepp Blatter
, to discuss
wide-ranging reform proposals, transparency was lacking. And calls to postpone the election for a new president were rebuffed, but it is anything but clear who has the support -- and clean hands -- to
win the election.
No press conference was held following the emergency session of the executive committee, meeting without Blatter, suspended UEFA president Michel Platini
and Marco Polo Del Nero
, the South American representative who refuses to leave his native Brazil for fear of arrest by U.S.
“I was pleased to see unity among the Executive Committee members during our discussions of reform and its critical importance to our organization and world football,"
said acting FIFA president Issa Hayatou in a statement released by FIFA
. "Increasing the
transparency of ethics investigations is just one example of our firm commitment to change. It was also significant that we set the course for the upcoming presidential election.”
Unity would be a good thing but about what remains to be seen. The one thing the exco agreed to do is give the FIFA ethics committee the power to reveal more than basic information information about
its ongoing proceedings.
The exco heard a report from the FIFA reform
chaired by Francois Carrard
. Proposals include age limits for the president (no older than 74) and term limits for executive committee members (no
more than 12 years) and a separation of the executive committee from the day-to-day running of FIFA. The proposals, which will be submitted to the exco in December and then the FIFA Congress
(all 209 members) in February, also call for more female representation the executive committee and integrity checks for new members, but they maintain representation on the executive committee via
the confederation system (at heart of the many scandals that have rocked FIFA) and do not call for independent members.
Despite calls by IOC president Thomas Bach
for an "external presidential candidate" to take over FIFA and restore
credibility, the executive committee also confirmed Feb. 26 as the date for the Extraordinary FIFA Congress at which a new president will be elected. The deadline for candidates to submit their
applications with required five letters of recommendation is Monday. So far, only three named have been submitted: Platini, who is under suspension, and a pair of U.S. college graduates, Jordan's
(Princeton University) and former Trinidad & Tobago international David Nakhid
FIFA's Domenico Scala
, who oversees FIFA's electoral committee, confirmed that Platini will be ineligible to run -- and more important, campaign -- as
long as he is suspended. Platini will be eligible if his suspension expires before the Feb. 26 election date, but he'll still have to pass an integrity check, like all candidates.
was the heavy favorite to succeed Blatter with widespread support around the world, but his suspension following the opening of a criminal investigation into Blatter's payment of $2 million to Platini
in 2011, has thrown the race into turmoil. Neither Prince Ali nor Nakhid is believed to have significant support.
Prepared to fill the vacuum is the Asian Football Confederation's chief,
Sheikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa
, the crown prince of Bahrain. The 49-year-old Sheikh Salman says he is not yet a candidate but has been been urged to
stand "by a growing number of senior football administrators, FIFA members and personalities of public life." Given Asia's power base and support from Africa and Europe, he would become the heavy
favorite to replace Blatter -- if he can pass an integrity check.
Human rights organizations have expressed outrage that Sheikh Salman might run for FIFA president, considering his
family’s role in the brutal suppression of Bahrain’s pro-democracy demonstrations in 2011. More than 150 athletes, coaches and referees were suspended after a special committee, which the
Associated Press reported
was chaired by Sheikh Salman, in his capacity as the then
head of the Bahrain Football Association, identified them from photos of protests. Said Nicholas McGeehan
, the Gulf
researcher at Human Rights Watch, “If a member of Bahrain’s royal family is the cleanest pair of hands that FIFA can find, then the organization would appear to have the shallowest and
least ethical pool of talent in world sport.”
Sheikh Salman has denied the reports. In an interview with the Financial Times
, Scala reported that Sheikh Salman, like all other candidates, would be
subject to an integrity check if he ran for FIFA president.