Business as usual at FIFA? New presidential favorite faces scrutiny

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. authorities.

“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 committee 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 Prince Ali (Princeton University) and former Trinidad & Tobago international David Nakhid (American University).

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.

Platini 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.
2 comments about "Business as usual at FIFA? New presidential favorite faces scrutiny".
  1. Brent Crossland, October 20, 2015 at 7:02 p.m.

    Anyone who has had any significant responsibility for FIFA operations in the past decade should be declared ineligible. Period.

    And, seriously. The IOC is telling FIFA how to clean up their shop????? Are you kidding me?

  2. Kenneth Gough, October 21, 2015 at 8:52 a.m.

    Time for Switzerland to put FIFA in receivership and appoint a respected outside business executive to clean up the business while the prosecutors put away the gangsters who have been running it.

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