The Next FIFA President: The Four Candidates
There’s just over two months until the fate of FIFA is decided, as 209 of the Member Federations will travel to Zurich where they will cast their vote on who the next President will be. After being scrutinised by the FIFA ethics committee, Sepp Blatter, Michael van Praag, Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein and Luis Figo will all appear on the ballot page after having their nominations accepted, with David Ginola and Jerome Champagne already dropping out of the running.
79 year-old Blatter had previously denied that he would run for another term in office, having been in the position since 1998. However, at this turbulent time where the credibility of FIFA is being questioned, the former General Secretary has decided to defend the organisation which he has spent many years helping to build up. After all, despite his criticisms, he has fulfilled his ultimate aim of bringing football to all corners of the earth, shown by helping to expand the World Cup to South Africa in 2012 and the scheduled 2022 event in Qatar.
This time around however, Blatter is remaining coy on his manifesto, stating that his previous 40 years’ experience within FIFA speaks for itself. When asked about his intentions if he was to be re-elected in 2015, Blatter said, "I am the FIFA president until May 29th, until the last item on the Congress agenda, which is called the election of the president.
"I have been asked by National Associations in all the six Confederations to be a candidate, they put me as a candidate. But I am still the FIFA president, I am not campaigning. I am doing my job as FIFA President and I will do until the last day of my mandate."
Meanwhile, former player Luis Figo is much more open with the ideas which he would like to see implemented if he were to be elected as FIFA chief.
Firstly, the former Portugal & Real Madrid star wants to see the World Cup be expanded to 48 nations, and further build upon Blatter’s global expansion plan for football to reach all regions and become the number one sport. Figo aims to do this by giving over 66% of FIFA’s cash reserves back to National Football Associations so that reinvestment in grassroots football can take place, and bolster the popularity which the sport has. Despite his promise of greater FIFA transparency amongst his other ideas, Figo’s clear lack of experience might prove to be a major obstacle to seeing the 2001 FIFA Player of the Year elected as the head of football’s governing body.
Michael van Praag
The head of the Dutch Football Association (KNVB), Michael van Praag has also thrown his name into the hat to be FIFA’s next President. Having overseen Ajax as Chairman between 1989 and 2003, their 1995 Champions League success proved to the UEFA Executive Committee member how valuable home-grown talent is, and is therefore something he would encourage if he was to be elected as FIFA chief. Furthermore, the 67-year-old recognises that the rising influence of agents within football is growing out of control, and is trying to implement a scheme which would reduce their impact, as well as trying to combat the growing disparity between the richer and poorer clubs.
Before taking up roles in the boardroom, van Praag started his career in football as a referee, and at a time where video technology is increasingly debated within the modern game, the Dutchman is likely to implement new measures to assist the referees and relieve the pressure which is placed upon them. But if that would be with video technology or not remains on the agenda.
Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein
The final candidate is 39-ear-old Prince Ali from Jordan, the youngest of the Presidential candidates. The Prince aims to shift the focus of FIFA back to celebrating football and not the storms of corruption which is seemingly tainting its reputation.
Prince Ali said: "It is time to shift the focus away from administrative controversy and back to sport. The headlines should be about football, not about FIFA."
Bin al-Hussein has been head of the Football Association in his home country since 1999, and was a handful of high-profiled figures to call for the publication of the Garcia report which looked at the ethics behind the appointment of the World Cups in both Russia and Qatar.
As head of the West Asian Football Federation, Prince Ali is seen to have the high-level of experience which is needed to lead FIFA, as well as a moral code which could be refreshing amongst a closed-door organisation bathed in secrets.
Michel Platini, head of UEFA, has supported the idea of Prince Ali becoming FIFA President.
Platini said: "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."
Prince Ali was nominated by the US and England amongst other countries, with his primary idea that football should be given back to the fans and therefore would like to see greater involvement of fans in the running of clubs.
Greater transparency, improved media relations and a proper review of the process to award FIFA World Cup hosts has also been promised by the Jordanian.
Whilst many football fans would vote for anyone but Blatter, only 209 people within FIFA have a chance to vote in May for the next President of the governing body. Whilst the current Head of FIFA might argue that his experience speaks for itself, he might find that come May, a fresh and transparent approach could be favoured as the Football Federation aims to brush away growing claims of corruption and distrust.
Written by Matt Davis