(Reuters) - Jordanian royal Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, a close ally of UEFA President Michel Platini, announced plans on Tuesday to challenge for the leadership of world soccer’s scandal-hit governing body FIFA.
The current FIFA vice-president and head of the Jordanian and West Asian Football Federations said he had been encouraged to stand by colleagues disenchanted with Sepp Blatter’s governance of the body, hit by endless corruption allegations.
The 39-year-old British and American educated Prince will join Jerome Champagne in challenging the 78-year-old Blatter, who is widely expected to announce this month his candidature for a fifth term in the May elections in Zurich.
“I am seeking the presidency of FIFA because I believe it is time to shift the focus away from administrative controversy and back to sport,” Prince Ali said in a statement.
”This was not an easy decision. It came after careful consideration and many discussions with respected FIFA colleagues over the last few months.
“The message I heard, over and over, was that it is time for a change. The world game deserves a world-class governing body — an International Federation that is a service organisation and a model of ethics, transparency and good governance.”
FIFA has lurched from one crisis to another, with many of its all powerful executive committee members leaving their positions in the wake of the controversy over the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar in 2010.
Blatter, first elected president in 1998, has held onto his position but has been criticised heavily for allowing corruption to take place under his watch.
Ethics investigator Michael Garcia resigned last month and complained about a lack of leadership in world soccer’s governing body after being angered at the way his 43-page report into the bidding process for the World Cups was handled.
That, coupled with a row over when the Qatar World Cup will be hosted, has left Ali having had enough of the failings.
“The headlines should be about football, not about FIFA,” he added.
“FIFA exists to serve a sport which unites billions of people from all over the world, people of differing and divergent political, religious and social affiliations, who come together in their enjoyment of ‘the world’s game’.”
Ali first became Jordanian football president in 1999 before being elected as the Asian Football Confederation’s FIFA Vice-President in 2011, surprisingly edging out powerful South Korean administrator Chung Mong-joon.
An initial ally of Blatter, relations between the two weakened over the course of Ali’s four-year term as the Jordanian strengthened his ties with Platini, long tipped as a future FIFA President.
“I know Prince Ali well. He has all the credibility required to hold high office. We now await his proposals and his programme for the future of football,” said Platini in a statement.
Ali, who campaigned long and hard for the allowance of hijabs in women’s soccer, has seen his position weaken in Asia since the election of AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa in 2013.
The Bahraini pushed through legislation to ensure the AFC president would take the FIFA vice president seat, with Prince Ali accusing Shaikh Salman of playing politics.
The change will come into effect after the AFC elections later this year.
The move also led to speculation that Ali would stand for the AFC Presidency before Platini, who brings the support of UEFA’s 54 member associations, encouraged another FIFA leadership candidate after declining support for Blatter and Champagne.
Reporting by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by Greg Stutchbury/Sudipto Ganguly