As FIFA attempts to recover from its corruption crisis, we find ourselves with a second presidential election in the space of two years. The election taking place next month on the 26th of February follows Sepp Blatter’s resignation as President of FIFA and ban from all footballing activities, due to corruption claims.
This article will explain all you need to know about the process, introduce each candidate and explain who is likely to take the reins of football’s most out-of-touch organisation.
How the process works:
In order to stand in the election, a candidate must have played an active role in association football for at least two of the five years preceding his proposed candidature. They must also present declarations of support from at least five member associations before they are announced as a candidate by FIFA.
Should the candidates hold a current position in office, then they must ensure that they have no conflict of interests during the election period. They are also bound by the FIFA Code of Ethics and could be under investigation should there be suspicion on breaking any rules.
On the day of voting, there is a secret ballot in which all 209 federation members are invited to take part. Many of these states will have publicly declared which candidate they will be voting for. If in the first round of voting any candidate receives more than two thirds of the vote (139 out of 209 votes), then they are declared as the President of FIFA.
If not, a simple majority will be enough to secure the presidency in the second round of voting.
Who are the Candidates?
He has been the general secretary of UEFA since 2009, and served under Michel Platini within the UEFA organisation. During his time in office, he has helped to introduce the ‘Financial Fair Play’ scheme and has also overseen the expansion of EURO 2016 to 24 teams. As well as this, he has also played a role in ensuring that EURO 2020 will take place in 13 different European countries.
Seen as one of the front-runners in the election, he plans to expand the number of teams in the World Cup and claims that “If you are serious about developing football it must involve more associations in the best football event in the world”. Furthermore, he plans to allow regions, and not just countries to bid for the rights to hosting the World Cup. As well as this he does not plan to stand down should Blatter win any appeal against his eight year ban.
It is believed that he currently has between 70-80 votes secured, but some of his votes may be split between himself and Prince Ali bin al Hussein who received many votes from Europe in the previous election.
Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al Khalifa
Sheikh Salman is the other strong contender in the presidential elections. A member of the royalty in Bahrain, he served as the President of the Bahrain Football Association from 2002 to 2013. Under his stewardship, the Bahrain national team reached its highest in the FIFA ranking system.
He is currently the President of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) after his election in 2013. The Sheikh has promised that his bid will be completely self-financed with no financial support from the AFC. Salman is not immune from allegations of wrong doing himself. In 2011 he was accused of “complicity in crimes against humanity” by human rights groups including the Human Rights Watch. Sheikh Salman denies these claims and has passed the ‘integrity check’ and is now a favourite for the role of FIFA President.
It is predicted that he has already secured around 80-90 of the votes. Despite him having the support of most of the Asian federations, Prince Ali of Jordan could also split some of the vote in the continent with Jordan and Iraq already pledging to support him.
Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan
The runner-up in the 2015 FIFA Presidential election is standing once again. He previously conceded defeat to Blatter at the end of the first round of voting where it was inevitable that Blatter would receive the majority to make him President. The former FIFA Vice-President is currently the President of both the Jordan Football Association and the West Asian Football Federation.
Prince Ali has called for the publication of the Garcia report. The report contains the findings of the investigation into the 2018 and the 2022 World Cup bids which have been branded as being corrupt. Ali also gained respect in the football community for successfully removing the ban on the wearing of the Hijab in Women’s football.
Prince Ali is considered to be key in this election. It is expected he will receive the third-largest amount of votes. Should the voting continue to a second round, endorsement from the Prince would be vital in securing a majority for either Infantino or Salman. Ali’s role could be much larger than initially predicted.
Champagne is a former Deputy Secretary General of FIFA from 2002-2005 and left the organisation in 2010. However, he remained in the football community becoming an advisor to the Palestinian Football Federation before also advising the Cyprus Turkish Football Federation. He is famous for also producing a report entitled “Which FIFA for the 21st century?”. In said document he considers there a need to correct the imbalance between amateur and professional football, and also bridge the ever-widening gap between football in Europe and football in the rest of the world.
Despite this, he is not considered a serious contender in the race, after failing to receive enough support in the previous 2015 election.
As a businessman and former host of South Africa’s The Apprentice, Tokyo Sexwale is a fairly unheard of candidate in this spring’s elections. Imprisoned on Robben Island during the South African apartheid, he carries a strong political background serving as a cabinet minister and at one point was considered to be a potential President of South Africa. Sexwale has worked on FIFA’s anti-discriminatory committee and was also a part of the Committee surrounding the 2010 World Cup.
The African Football Federation, who were strong supporters of Blatter, have yet to supply backing to Sexwale and like Champagne, he is not seen as a key player in the election.
Who will win?
The evidence points to either Gianni Infantino or Sheikh Salman winning the presidential race. Both have strong support, and with the potential backing of Prince Ali, Infantino is in a stronger position than the Sheikh. However, this will all depend on whether Prince Ali is willing to concede defeat for the second election in a row.
Does this therefore represent a fresh start for FIFA?
The bans handed to Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini does appear to offer hope to the survival of FIFA and offers it a chance to regain its credibility. However, it has since transpired that despite handing a ban to Blatter, FIFA have continued to pay his salary until his successor is appointed, despite him not being able to carry out his duties as President during this time. It is not solely FIFA that are out of control. The IAAF also appear to be an organisation mired in corruption and seemingly in a world of their own. It will take a long time before the roots of corruption can be weeded out of these sporting organisations. It may be that the only way to solve the crisis facing FIFA, is to disassemble the organisation and rebuild anew. True reform seems unlikely without the release of the Garcia report whilst FIFA’s new Presidential candidates are no closer to reconnecting the organisation with the people of football.