FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali bin al Hussein condemned the tactics of his main election rivals on Thursday, raising ethical questions about their efforts to secure block support from regional football confederations.
The Jordanian royal, also a former FIFA vice president, is seen as an underdog in the February 26 poll to lead world football, with UEFA boss Gianni Infantino and Asian confederation chief Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa considered the front-runners.
Both Infantino and Sheikh Salman of Bahrain have been endorsed by the executive committees of major continental football confederations.
But Prince Ali stressed that the election will be decided by the individual votes of FIFA’s 209-member national federations, not by a handful of executives.
“I am not a candidate who tries to use a couple of executive committees or confederations to push voters in a certain way,” Prince Ali told reporters in Geneva.
“That is what differentiates me from other candidates…If other candidates do choose to work on regions and try to divide up the world, then, yes, I think that is wrong,” he added.
Unlike other contestants in the race to replace Sepp Blatter as FIFA’s president, Prince Ali has been vocal in his criticism of the election process, suggesting that the ethics issues which have plagued FIFA for years have surfaced in the campaign.
His criticism of executive committee endorsements was almost certainly directed at Infantino — who has the backing of senior executives in the European and Latin American confederations — and Sheikh Salman, endorsed by the top committees in the Asian and African confederations.
“There is a lot of confusion in terms of the process of elections,” Prince Ali said, stressing that using a regional organisation like UEFA was against FIFA’s own election rules.
“Nobody is allowed to use their organisation for election purposes. That was clear,” Prince Ali said.
– Africa endorsement questioned –
Also at Thursday’s press conference was Liberian football chief Musa Bility, who wanted to contest for FIFA’s presidency but did not pass an electoral committee integrity test.
Initially seated in the audience, Prince Ali invited Bility on stage, where the Liberian endorsed the Jordanian’s candidacy.
Bility also cast doubt on the strength of the February 5 unanimous endorsement given to Sheikh Salman by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
“I can tell you that Africa will not vote as the executive committee has announced,” Bility told reporters.
He argued that in order for CAF to issue a unanimous endorsement, each of its 54-member federations would have to be on board.
According to Bility, many countries are still “making their decision”.
He said there were questions as to whether the move to back Sheikh Salman by CAF executives amounted to “intimidation or interference”.
“If you are the governing body of a confederation…and you have no right to vote, why should you be making these positions,” Bility said.
Prince Ali and Bility have also been united in their call for the head of FIFA’s ad-hoc electoral committee, Domenico Scala, to step down over a conflict of interest.
Both have voiced concern that Scala could be biased because, as a Swiss-Italian, he shares Infantino’s nationality.
– Ali’s ‘first year’ –
Separately, Ali laid out his plans for his first year on the job, highlighted by his pledge to release former US prosecutor Michael Garcia’s report on alleged bribery and corruption during bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
FIFA has not yet released the 2014 report, citing procedural delays. Garcia resigned in protest, claiming the report was suppressed.
Swiss prosecutors have since launched their own probe into the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, won by Russia and Qatar respectively.
Ali further said he would install a limit of two, four-year terms for FIFA’s president and executive committee members if elected.
He also warned that FIFA, wracked by a web of scandals involving most of its top leadership, was running out of time to implement reform.
“The world is cleaning up FIFA whether FIFA likes it or not,” he said.