SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean tycoon Chung Mong-joon, one of the most influential figures in Asian soccer, said on Tuesday that leaving Sepp Blatter at the helm of FIFA until a new president is elected shows those in power at the scandal-hit governing body “have yet to come to their senses”.
FIFA announced on Monday it would set up a new task force to propose reforms aimed at cleaning itself up, a move critics said was an inadequate response to the crisis.
Chung, the billionaire scion of the Hyundai conglomerate and a former FIFA vice president, told Yonhap News agency he was still thinking about standing in the election, which will take place on Feb. 26.
An “extraordinary elective congress” of all 209 member associations will decide a the successor to Blatter, who has been at the helm of FIFA since 1998.
Blatter announced on June 2 he was standing down, just four days after winning a fifth term with an election victory at a congress overshadowed by the arrest of seven soccer officials.
“I am thinking of running. I would like to open a new era for FIFA,” said Chung, who had said in June he would gauge support before making a decision.
“The idea to leave Sepp Blatter in charge to manage the elections until February next year and to let him come up with a reform plan only shows that those involved have yet to come to their senses.”
Chung, a former member of FIFA’s powerful Executive Committee and a fierce critic of Blatter, is the biggest shareholder in Hyundai Heavy Industries Co Ltd and a one-time South Korean presidential hopeful.
He was instrumental in bringing the World Cup to South Korea in 2002, when it co-hosted the event with Japan.
Michel Platini, the head of Europe’s governing body, is viewed as favorite to succeed Blatter, with a UEFA source on Monday saying four out of six continental confederations would back him, but Chung cautioned against another European taking over.
“Since Europe is the center of world football there are some who have their doubts about an Asian becoming president of FIFA,” Chung said. “But the idea that only a European can become FIFA president is why FIFA is plagued by corruption.”
FIFA is in the grip of the worst crisis in its 111-year history, with 14 sports marketing executives and soccer officials, including several from FIFA, indicted in the United States on bribery, money laundering and wire fraud charges.
The U.S Department of Justice investigation into corruption, kickbacks and racketeering in soccer could lead to more charges, especially if some of those indicted agree to cooperate with authorities.
Writing by Peter Rutherford; Reporting by Kim Hoo-yeon; Editing by Alex Richardson