News 12 February 2016

Sheikh Salman suggests abandoning FIFA election process

Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has suggested that now he has the support of both the Asian (AFC) and African (CAF) football confederations, FIFA should abandon the pretext of a democratic election and move forward with him as President. He told the Associated Press that it would be best for FIFA “if we have a clear indication on who will be elected […] I hope that Europe looks at it from an organisational point of view, and not an individual, on what is best. And if there is an agreement, then I think it is a win-win. Everybody is involved and everybody has a share of the power.”

Last week, Russian Minister for Sport and FIFA Executive Committee member Vitaly Mutko told Russian news agency TASS that Sheikh Salman (pictured) and Gianni Infantino could join forces to govern FIFA. Infantino, currently UEFA’s President, is considered Salman’s main rival. The suggestion is that Sheikh Salman should be anointed as FIFA’s new President, with Infantino as his Secretary General.

Salman is favourite to take over as FIFA President after brokering a deal which he says will ensure the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) vote for him. If that happens, he will secure 100 of the 209 votes at the 26 February Extraordinary Congress that has been convened to elect the new FIFA President. His rivals are Infantino, Jérôme Champagne, Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan and Tokyo Sexwale of South Africa, who has not withdrawn despite the CAF’s decision not to back him.

Yesterday, Prince Ali told reporters that while President of the Bahrain football association, Sheikh Salman had failed to protect athletes from the government during a 2011 crackdown on pro-democracy protests. “How are you then going to earn the respect of the entire world and players across the world, as well as FAs, if you couldn’t even take care of your own?” Prince Ali asked. “If you are not going to take care of your own players and if you are not going to stick up for them, that in itself is a problem”.

It has been alleged that Sheikh Salman helped identify athletes that took part in the pro-democracy protests, who claimed that they were then imprisoned and tortured by the authorities. Sheikh Salman denies the allegations.

In an interview with the Sports Integrity Initiative, UK politician and co-founder of NewFIFANow, Damian Collins MP, alleged that Sheikh Salman may have diverted FIFA GOAL Project development money into a 2009 attempt to get himself elected to the FIFA Executive. “There is a debate in relation to Sheikh Salman that in the past – for example in 2009 when he ran for the FIFA Executive – that he not only used money from the Bahrain football association, but they also used FIFA GOAL money as well”, he said.

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