FIFA hopefuls wrap up campaigning

Gianni Infantino (AFP)
Gianni Infantino (AFP)

Zurich - Favourites Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa and Gianni Infantino, and the three outsiders, completed their campaigns on the eve of Friday's crucial presidential elections at the corruption-tainted ruling football body FIFA.

The candidates were greeted by a huge media contingent at a Zurich hotel where they appeared before delegates from the Oceania body OFC and the CONCACAF region for North and Central America and the Caribbean, before touring the other confederations like Europe's UEFA as well.

Jordan's Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein - who lost the 2015 election to then incumbent and now banned Joseph Blatter, and is an outsider now - summed up before UEFA delegates what is at stake Friday at the Hallenstadion venue.

"It is the most critical of times for FIFA tomorrow, it is the biggest day in the history of the world governing body," he said.

"We have to get it right. The whole world is looking at you to take our sport into the future and not to have a situation in which we remain the same or end up much much worse."

Frenchman Jerome Champagne and Tokyo Sexwale of South Africa are the other candidates. They are not expected to garner many votes while the ballot could be decided by those who initially vote for Prince Ali.

Acting FIFA president Issa Hayatou was meanwhile also out and about to urge all associations to approve an important reform bill to restore credibility at FIFA.

A two-thirds majority of 138 (from so far 207 eligible members) is required in the first round, and a simple majority of 104 votes is needed from the next rounds onwards in which the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated.

The Asian football chief Sheikh Salman, who wants to be a non-executive president, appears to have the majority of votes from Africa (54 members) and Asia (44, if Kuwait and Indonesia remain suspended).

East Asian nations including Japan, South Korea and China pledged their support Thursday, and he told CONCACAF their delegates would not lose privileges when the number FIFA committees are reduced as he will bring them into new commissions instead.

But some delegations also voiced disappointment that he did not address criticism from human rights groups who say he was involved in arrests and possible torture of player around pro-democracy protests in Bahrain in 2011. Sheikh Salman has denied the accusations.

"If the reports are right it is a very difficult situation to plan the future with a personality on top who may be tainted," German FIFA executive Wolfgang Niersbach said.

UEFA secretary general Infantino meanwhile can count on most of Europe's 53 votes and many from CONCACAF as well. South America's 10 CONMEBOL members have supported him as well but there is speculation he may not get all of them.

All candidates have 15 minutes to address the congress, and Champagne said: "Of course I will be there." Sexwale said: "It is about FIFA. FIFA is a house broken and needs to be repaired. You will hear more tomorrow."

The new president succeeds Blatter who reigned since 1998, announced on June 2 he would step down, and is by now banned for six years in connection with a "disloyal payment" to the also banned UEFA president Michel Platini, who had planned to run for the presidency as well.

Blatter was initially re-elected on May 29 at a congress rocked by a first wave of arrests around a US investigation.

American authorities have so far treated the ruling body as a victim of corruption practices which has seen 41 people/companies indicted, but FIFA is under big pressure to reform itself to keep this status.

The new president will be the face of FIFA as his power is to be cut drastically under wide-ranging governance reform proposals.

The reforms need 156 of the maximum 207 votes to pass and Hayatou urged the members that the "spirit of collective responsibility ... is needed now, more than ever."

He also urged confederations and member federations to adopt similar reforms, which an extraordinary congress did on Thursday for CONCACAF following the loss of three previous presidents in the US probe.

UEFA, like CONCACAF without a president after the ban on Michel Platini, also had a congress but mainly on routine matters such as financial reports as it announced a 21 per cent increase in revenue to now 2.099 billion euros (2.31 billion dollars) in 2014-15.

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