Football’s governing body will vote in its new leader on Friday as FIFA looks to start the long process of regaining the trust of the football world.
A tense battle is expected, with Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa and Gianni Infantino the favourites for the position.
A presidential election is always an important moment, but Friday’s vote carries even more significance given the crisis that FIFA finds itself in. Overwhelmed by allegations of corruption, the sporting world is looking for a strong signal of intent that the organisation is entering a new era.
The presidential election was prompted by Sepp Blatter’s decision to stand down amidst a widespread corruption scandal that has resulted in the indictment of 25 people, including nine FIFA officials, on criminal charges.
The Swiss stepped down just days after being voted in for a fifth term last May, largely because his position at the organisation had become untenable.
Who are the candidates?
Current Position: Has been UEFA general secretary since 2009
What he stands for: Has called for FIFA to become “a credible, trusted and transparent global governing body”. He has also called for their to be a separation of executive powers and governance between the FIFA Council and FIFA Administration. He wants to increase the number of countries taking part in the World Cup to 40, and wants the event to be held regionally rather than by one or two countries. He would like to boost the use of technology in the game.
What he said: “I’m not a politician, I’m football person and I’m a worker. If we stop doing politics and start doing football, the world will admire us.”
Prince Ali bin al-Hussein
Current Position: President of Jordan Football Association. Founder and president of the West Asian Football Federation
What he stands for: Has said that considerable more financial investment into member associations is required in order to make them sustainable. Prince Ali believes that a greater focus needs to be placed on women’s football, as well as the related disciplines of beach soccer and futsal. He supports the increase in number of teams at the World Cup, and has called for a “formal continental rotation system” to be put in place for bidding for the rights to host the World Cup.
What he said: “[Friday] is the biggest milestone in the history of FIFA. It will decide if FIFA goes ahead as we want or if it spirals down.”
Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa
Current position: Asian Football Confederation president and FIFA vice-president
What he stands for: Sheikh Salman has said he would split FIFA into two halves, one which handles the business and commercial side, and another which focus on the organizational and developmental aspects of football. In a bid to stop corruption he will “evaluate the creation of a global integrity and anti-corruption agency, jointly owned and run by sports bodies with law enforcement bodies around the world”. Sheikh Salman believes that a renewed focus on doping in football is required.
What he said: “I think my track record in Asia proves itself. I’ve come to a confederation that went through difficult times. To turn it around, to bring that inner peace and harmony and understanding between all groups is something which I’m proud of.”
Current position: Prominent South African businessman
What he stands for: He has said that “football cannot be controlled from Zurich” and will look to involve individual confederations more. In favour of the creation of a “FIFA Independent International Advisory Board” which will critique FIFA. Sexwale has championed a number of women’s causes in football. He has floated the idea of allowing sponsors on the shirts of national teams (which is currently not permitted) in order to increase revenue. The South African believes that the awarding of two World Cups simultaneously, as was the case with the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, should not happen again.
What he said: “FIFA is broken and what is broken is the administration For me, that is the easiest thing [to fix].”
Current position: Football consultant
What he stands for: Champagne believes that more dialogue is needed between clubs and international teams. He has spoken of “rebalancing” the inequality in football. The Frenchman has said that there is more room for the use of technology in football. Unlike many other candidates, Champagne is not in favour of a 40-team World Cup.
What he said: “I want a FIFA that serves football, that serves you. The FIFA I dream of is one which correct the inequalities.”
The football associations of the 207 countries affiliated to FIFA will each have one vote. There are 209 member associations, but Kuwait and Indonesia will not have voting rights as they are currently suspended.
The national associations form the following regional associations:
Africa (CAF) – 54 votes
Europe (UEFA) – 53 votes
Asia (AFC) – 46 votes
North and Central America (CONCACAF) – 35 votes
Oceania (OFC) – 11 votes
South America (CONMEBOL) – 10 votes
How does the election work?
To win the election outright in the first round of voting, a candidate must receive two-thirds of the votes. If this does not occur, a second round of voting is required in which a majority of over 50 percent of the vote is sufficient. If a winner has still not be determined, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated and a third vote takes place. This process continues until a candidate receives 50 percent of the votes
— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) February 25, 2016
Who will win?
With the backing of CAF and the AFC, Sheikh Salman is in a strong position. However, Infantino has the support of UEFA and believes he will garner a number of votes from the CONCACAF and CONMEBOL members. Prince Ali has much of the American support though, and this could make him the proverbial kingmaker. It really is too close to call.