FIFA aims to start afresh with vote to replace Blatter

Thu Feb 25, 2016 4:01pm EST
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By Simon Evans, Mike Collett and Brian Homewood

ZURICH (Reuters) - Crisis-hit world football governing body FIFA faces one of the most important days in its 112-year history when it elects a new leader on Friday hoping to usher in a fresh era after decades of tawdry controversy.

Delegates from more than 200 countries will vote for a new president to succeed Sepp Blatter, two days after the disgraced Swiss and European soccer chief Michel Platini lost their appeals against bans for ethics violations.

A wide-ranging set of reforms, which are designed to prevent corruption, will be voted on before the FIFA election and are expected to be passed. They include term limits for top officials and disclosure of their earnings.

Whoever takes over from Blatter, who ran FIFA for 17 years like a globe-trotting head of state, will inherit a very different job with the focus on crisis management, after dozens of international soccer officials were indicted in the United States last year for racketeering, money-laundering and bribery.

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa is the bookmaker's favorite with UEFA's Swiss general secretary Gianni Infantino a close second.

Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein believes he is still firmly in the race however, while Frenchman Jerome Champagne and South African Tokyo Sexwale will hope to make an impact.

There was little indication on Thursday, though, that the vote would be anything other than a two-horse race between Sheikh Salman and Infantino.

"I am feeling good and very positive. The support I am receiving fills me with confidence,” Infantino told Reuters.   Continued...

FIFA presidential candidate Gianni Infantino leaves after his visit to the CONCACAF meeting in Zurich, Switzerland February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann