ZURICH (Reuters) - Seven candidates are now lined up to take over at FIFA from Sepp Blatter, whose 18 years as president are ending with world soccer’s governing body entangled in a scandal over pervasive corruption.
FIFA confirmed seven candidates had registered by Monday’s deadline, with candidates from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
One potential candidate, David Nakhid, was forced out on Wednesday when his registration was ruled invalid. Another, South Korean Chung Mong-Joon, pulled out on Monday because he had been banned from soccer for six years.
Among the seven registered candidates, Michel Platini’s is in doubt. The head of European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, he is also currently suspended for 90 days, along with Blatter.
Those remaining are: Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan and Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrein; Frenchmen Platini and Jerome Champagne; and the Swiss Gianni Infantino, Liberian Musa Bility and South Africa’s Tokyo Sexwale.
One of them will become the head of an organization facing its worst scandal ever. The U.S. Department of Justice has indicted 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives on a series of corruption charges, and Swiss authorities are investigating the decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar respectively.
Since 2010, FIFA’s own Ethics Committee has banned more than a dozen current and former members of the executive committee, either while in office or after they had left.
The exclusion of Nakhid was a surprise, though. A former Trinidad and Tobago international player, he took part on Monday in a sports conference in Denmark, along with Champagne, as a candidate. He spent Tuesday afternoon giving interviews and laying out his plans.
But FIFA’s electoral rules state that candidates must present letters of support from five football associations, and that each cannot back more than one candidate. One association had signed letters of support for both Nakhid and a rival candidate.
“One of the five declarations of support for Mr Nakhid was declared invalid as the same member association had issued a declaration of support for another candidate,” FIFA said on Wednesday.
“The electoral committee decided not to consider Mr Nakhid’s application as it did not fulfill the required five declarations of support.”
Nakhid’s spokesperson told Reuters they were “shocked” and would appeal. He plans to issue a formal statement later.
The seven other candidates must now face integrity checks under FIFA’s code of ethics. FIFA said that Platini’s bid would not be processed while he is banned, but he could still stand if he wins an appeal.
“Should such a ban be lifted or expire before the FIFA presidential election, the Ad-hoc Electoral Committee would decide, depending on the respective exact point in time, on how to proceed with the candidature concerned,” FIFA said in a statement.
As an alternative European candidate, UEFA’s general secretary Infantino announced he would stand on Monday.
Champagne is a former French diplomat who held various posts at FIFA between 1999 and 2010 but is a critic of UEFA.
Sexwale is a South African businessman and former apartheid-era political prisoner and Bility is head of the Liberian Football Association. Prince Ali is a former FIFA executive committee member and Sheikh Salman is head of the Asian Football Confederation.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) said in a statement it had heard representations from four of the candidates but was not yet ready to endorse any of them.
“After discussions with these (four) figures, the executive committee of CAF unanimously decided to let the administrative procedures for the registration of candidates take its course, given there is plenty of time to decide (on a candidate) that will serve the primary interests of the continent,” it said.
Reporting by Joshua Franklin; additional reporting by Nick Said in Cape Town; writing by Brian Homewood in Aarhus, Denmark; Editing by Larry King and Gareth Jones