FIFA presidential hopeful Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein has promised to rid the crisis-hit organisation of corruption and "bring it into the 21st century".
Jordan’s football chief told AFP on Saturday that he was confident of being elected in February’s vote after losing to Sepp Blatter in May’s ballot.
“I trust in the 209 national associations to make the right decision this time,” Prince Ali said in an interview. “I come from a national association and a lot of us are tired of what has been happening.
“There is a real desire to move on. I want to reverse the pyramid and turn FIFA into a service organisation. It’s time to bring it into the 21st century.”
Prince Ali refused to be drawn on corruption charges against Blatter and the world body’s vice-president Michel Platini — both currently suspended from office and who potentially face life bans over a $2 million payment Blatter made to Platini in 2011.
“That’s a process that is taking place and has to do with the ethics committee,” said Prince Ali, who left the executive committee after losing his challenge to Blatter’s re-election by 133-73 votes. “It’s going to take time to fix the reputation of FIFA and it will take time to change the culture.”
A FIFA ethics court verdict on Blatter and Platini is expected on Monday, and several high-profile arrests since Swiss police raided the Zurich hotel where FIFA delegates were staying two days before May’s election have left the organisation fighting for its survival, according to Prince Ali.
“I don’t think people were very surprised that things are continuing to happen in this direction,” he said, referring to the arrests which triggered the worst crisis in FIFA’s 111-year history. “If we don’t get it right this time then the concern is that things will continue.
“It’s critical to have an election and to go ahead with it on time,” added Prince Ali, who has visited around 80 countries this year canvassing votes. “We’ve lost the year already to be honest.”
– Full disclosure –
Blatter, who stepped down four days after being re-elected, is ultimately responsible for the mess FIFA finds itself in, said the prince.
“If you have a president he has to take full responsibility for everything,” he shrugged. “It’s important to have full disclosure of what’s going on in this organisation. You have to have a president who is accountable, responsible. It’s common sense.”
Prince Ali faces opposition from former FIFA official Jerome Champagne of France, Swiss Gianni Infantino, UEFA’s general secretary, South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale and Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, while Platini still hopes to run.
“If there is no outside interference or breaches of the electoral procedures, then I will win,” insisted Prince Ali. “I know we missed a serious opportunity in May. We could be in a much different place now had things been different.
“One of the things I heard is that people are embarrassed now even to wear the FIFA badge, which is emblematic of the problems. If I’m president we will be open and transparent in actions, not words. If you put issues of corruption aside, what was maybe seen as okay 20, 30 years ago is not applicable today.”
Prince Ali, who has called for a maximum of two terms for future FIFA presidents, painted an Orwellian picture of FIFA mandarins huddled in their underground Swiss bunker.
“My first experience going into this building and going three floors underground into a dark, grey room — it was crazy,” he said. “That’s not even healthy. You should be outside upstairs getting some sunlight. It’s a very strange atmosphere.
“It’s a culture where people are afraid to talk or express their opinion,” he added. “If you show initiative, you’re a threat. That was my experience in the executive committee: ‘Just be quiet, don’t say anything, you’ll get along fine’. That is the culture and I want to change it.”