Exclusive: Asian sports chief hopes for election deal between AFC and UEFA

Thu Oct 29, 2015 1:06pm EDT
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By Simon Evans

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - One of the top powerbrokers in global sport, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, said a direct battle between Asian and European candidates for president of crisis-hit world soccer body FIFA should be averted by the striking of a deal between the pair.

In an interview with Reuters, Kuwaiti Sheikh Ahmad said he still hoped that suspended UEFA chief Michel Platini would be able to stand as president in February to lead FIFA out of the worst corruption scandal of its 111-year history.

But he said if Platini could not run, he hoped there would be "coordination" between UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino and Asian Footballl Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, two leading candidates who both entered the election after Platini's ban.

The suggestion brings echoes of the last FIFA election, held in May, when three UEFA-backed candidates ran against Sepp Blatter only for Dutchman Michael van Praag and Portugal's Luis Figo to withdraw in favor of Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein. Blatter won the election, but later announced plans to resign under pressure from mounting FIFA graft allegations.

Earlier this week former FIFA deputy general secretary Jerome Champagne, who is standing in the election, alluded to a past culture of backroom agreements some have blamed for a culture of corruption. He alleged that already in this election "there is a pre-campaign of arrangements in five star hotels behind closed doors".

Champagne declined to respond to Sheikh Ahmad's comments.

Platini is serving a 90-day suspension from FIFA’s Ethics Committee which is looking into a two million Swiss francs ($2.1 million) payment he received from outgoing president Sepp Blatter’s FIFA in 2011. The case is part of a broader graft scandal that broke in May with the indictment of 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives by U.S. prosecutors.

UEFA president Platini, who like Blatter denies wrongdoing, is appealing against the suspension to re-enter the race.   Continued...

Kuwait's member of the FIFA executive committee Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait waves as he takes a break during an extraordinary meeting of the FIFA Executive Committee in front of FIFA's headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland October 20, 2015.    REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann