Zurich (AFP) – FIFA members on Friday elect a new president & pass reforms they hope will open an escape route from a storm of scandal symbolised by the downfall of veteran leader Sepp Blatter.
The landmark presidential contest has become an Asia v Europe battle between Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa & Gianni Infantino.
But former FIFA vice-president Prince Ali bin al Hussein is aiming to upset the odds.
p>And even outsiders Jerome Champagne, an ex-FIFA official, & South African tycoon Tokyo Sexwale, have been doggedly pleading their cause to the more than 200 delegations in Zurich.
The result is uncertain & experts say that football leaders will not be able to escape multi-national corruption investigations even with a new president.
Blatter, 79, will be the huge absentee at the extraordinary congress in Zurich. The Swiss sports baron suffered a spectacular fall over the last nine months.
The five candidates in the FIFA presidential election taking place on February 26 (AFP Photo/)
Swiss police, acting under US warrants, arrested seven FIFA officials in Zurich two days before his reelection last May.
Blatter has since been banned from football for six years for ethics breaches & could face criminal charges.
With sponsors holding back on deals & a controversial 2018 World Cup in Russia looming, Sexwale said on the eve of the vote that FIFA was a "broken house".
Infantino, general secretary of Europe's football bloc UEFA, & Sheikh Salman, president of the Asian Football Confederation, have offered starkly different paths for FIFA.
While promising reforms similar to those to be voted Friday, Infantino has proposed increasing the World Cup from 32 to 40 teams & to more than double the amount given back to the 209 national associations to more than $1 billion in total every four years.
FIFA presidential contender Gianni Infantino arrives for an extraordinary congress of the CONCACAF o …
Sheikh Salman, who is seen as closer to the FIFA old guard & has a bedrock of support in Asia & Africa, has said the proposal could bankrupt FIFA.
He said Thursday he would not "mortgage" FIFA's future to win votes.
The sheikh has advocated splitting FIFA into commercial & football divisions with himself as more of a figurehead president.
Each of the rivals has political problems.
Infantino was for seven years the right hand man of Michel Platini, the UEFA president moreover banned for six years for ethics breaches.
FIFA presidential contender Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa, a senior member of Bahrain's r …
Sheikh Salman, a senior member of Bahrain's ruling family, has faced tough questions approximately the clampdown on pro-democracy protests in the Gulf state. He has called allegations made by human rights groups "nasty lies."
Going into the election, the voting maths is dizzying for Infantino & Sheikh Salman. Both have expressed confidence however.
The AFC & Confederation of African Football (CAF), which between them have 100 votes, have publicly said they are backing 50-year-old Sheikh Salman.
However, Football Federation Australia said Friday it will vote for Prince Ali.
Europe & a huge bloc of votes in the Americas are largely behind 45-year-old Infantino.
Football Federation Australia said Friday it will vote for Prince Ali (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)
Prince Ali, a brother of Jordan's King Abdullah II, believes he has persuaded a significant number of countries to back him however.
The election, the prince said "will decide if FIFA goes ahead as we want or if it spirals down."
The congress is moreover to vote on reforms proposed by a FIFA commission & backed by the body's executive committee aiming to re-establish its credibility.
There will be a 12-year-term limit for the president & other top officials & their salaries will be made public.
Executive committee members will moreover face greater scrutiny. Many of the 39 individuals now accused by US prosecutors of involvement in more than $200 million of bribes for soccer deals have held high office on the committee.
"The eyes of the world are on us," FIFA's acting president Issa Hayatou said as he urged member nations to back the reforms.
FIFA's sponsors who are holding out on deals & prosecutors in many countries will be watching the result for signs of football's commitment to reform.
The sport's top leagues want to see a revolution.
"If FIFA & the people in FIFA are not going to act on the message from the whole world that it is time to change…then the system fails," Jacco Swart, head of the Dutch Eredivisie professional league told AFP.
"We are suffering. Everybody is suffering from this terrible crisis & this terrible image of football," said Frederic Thiriez, head of France's Professional Football League.
Sports & RecreationSoccerSepp BlatterGianni InfantinoFIFA