News 26th February 2016

Tokyo Sexwale withdraws, leaving four…

Tokyo Sexwale today withdrew from the FIFA Presidential election, leaving four candidates: Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan, Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa of Bahrain, UEFA President Gianni Infantino and former FIFA Executive Jérôme Champagne. Sexwale’s withdrawal was not unexpected, following a meeting between him and Infantino on Robben Island this week. Questions had been asked as to why his campaign hadn’t been better promoted. Infantino is expected to take up any votes that national associations had promised to Sexwale.

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Bookmakers put Sheikh Salman as favourite, following his deal to garner the support of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the Confederation of African Football (CAF). He is followed by Gianni Infantino and Prince Ali, with Jérôme Champagne now in a distant last place.

Each candidate was given a monitored 15-minute window in order to present their case to the national associations. There were few surprises, apart from an argument between Sheikh Salman and Infantino over his promise to pay more money to National Associations. Earlier in the day, FIFA’s Acting General Secretary, Markus Kattner, had told Congress that FIFA was about US$550 million behind in its revenue projections for the 2015-2018 cycle, and would report a loss for 2015.

“We have to act responsible”, said Sheikh Salman. “We have to do what’s best for FIFA. I’m not prepared to mortgage the future of FIFA”.

However, Infantino was not prepared to take the suggestion that his plan would put FIFA’s finances at risk lying down.  “I’m asking you that if FIFA generates $5bn in revenues, is it not normal that $1.2 billion can be reinvested?”, he asked, to applause from the national associations. “The money in FIFA is your money. Is it a problem to spend 25% on development?” Two days ago, FIFA opened a CHF30 (€27.5 million) hotel in a building it had spent CHF30 million (€27.5 million) on redeveloping.

Revenue redistribution away from FIFA appeared to be a theme, perhaps illustrating that national associations are keen to use the problems engulfing FIFA to push for a bigger slice of football’s financial pie. Jérôme Champagne also highlighted the difference in revenues between FIFA, some of the larger national associations and those of smaller countries. “I have never made financial proposals that would endanger FIFA”, he pointed out.

Champagne also highlighted that he had pushed for an open debate between the candidates at the European Parliament. “I pushed for debate but unfortunately, no debate took place”, he said. UK MP Damian Collins has alleged that FIFA deliberately failed to clarify whether such a debate would breach its rules on political interference in football, in order to stop political scrutiny of the candidates. It has also kept its reform process – approved this morning – within the football family and requested that copies of any winning speeches were sent to it ahead of today’s Congress.

In other news, campaigners against Sheikh Salman, protesting over human rights allegations against him, are waiting outside of the Hallenstadion.

Joining them will be Jaimie Fuller, co-founder of NewFIFANow and owner of sports compression clothing company Skins, after he was ejected from the Congress. It is understood that Fuller attempted to use a media pass to access the event.

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