ZURICH (Reuters) - FIFA’s future will begin to take shape on Monday when its executive committee meets to choose a date for the presidential election and discuss proposed reforms to soccer’s discredited governing body.
If they decide on a December election, it could spark a desperate scramble as presidential hopefuls would be left with less than one month to declare their candidacy and gather the written support of at least five federations.
FIFA has been in limbo since June 2, when president Sepp Blatter, having been re-elected for a fifth term only four days earlier, announced that he would lay down his mandate at an extraordinary FIFA Congress which will take place between December and February.
Blatter has repeatedly said that he will not stand again and, unless he backtracks as he did following a similar promise in 2011, FIFA will have its first new president since 1998.
Candidates must declare their intention to stand, and present support, four months before the election.
The race to replace Blatter is shrouded in mystery with all the potential frontrunners, such as UEFA president Michel Platini and previous contender Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan, keeping a low profile.
Frenchman Platini, in particular, has ducked out of public appearances at events such as UEFA’s recent executive committee meeting in Prague, where he left his general secretary Gianni Infantino to face the media conference.
Once earmarked as Blatter’s successor and now one of his most bitter critics, the moody Frenchman has made it clear over the past years that he would be reluctant to relinquish the presidency of UEFA.
The first matter is to decide on the exact date for the Congress and election, which will be done on Monday.
UEFA, the biggest continental block on FIFA’s executive committee with eight of the 25 places, appears to favor an early election in December to begin the reforms as quickly as possible.
“We are clearly of the opinion, that it should happen as quickly as possible, and that means before the end of this year,” said German football federation president Wolfgang Niersbach during a UEFA meeting in Prague last month.
“The roadmap has been set. There is a FIFA executive meeting on July 20 when the date of the congress will be fixed and then we will know more. Obviously the sooner the better,” added Infantino.
“The sooner there is clarity about what will happen the better for FIFA and the better for soccer.”
Blatter, on the other hand, has already said that a December election would clash with the Club World Cup, a FIFA tournament in Japan, and that he would prefer it to take place in January.
However, recent FIFA tournaments, such as the Under-20 World Cup and the Women’s World Cup, went ahead without the presence of either Blatter or secretary general Jerome Valcke, and both ran smoothly.
Monday’s meeting must also discuss proposed reforms to the FIFA statutes and make recommendations to the Congress.
Domenico Scala, head of FIFA’s watchdog audit and compliance committee, has already said these reforms could include changes in the way the executive committee is chosen as well as integrity checks for members, potentially leading to another clash with UEFA.
Blatter has blamed UEFA for blocking similar proposals in the past, a charge which UEFA has denied.
Outside pressure is also building for FIFA to clear up its act. United States prosecutors threw FIFA into turmoil in May by indicting 14 sports marketing executives and soccer officials, including a number from soccer’s governing body.
Seven of those were arrested in a dawn raid on a luxury Zurich hotel just two days before the Congress where Blatter was re-elected for a fifth mandate.
Campaigners, including anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, have said internal reforms are not enough.
“There has to be an independent reform commission and FIFA has to change. No more false dawns, no more scandals, no more dawn raids,” said TI’s managing director Cobus de Swardt.
“FIFA has a debt to the fans and players to change now.”
Editing by Toby Davis