Prince Ali joins race to unseat Blatter

Following months of intense speculation, Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein has announced he will attempt to unseat President Blatter for the FIFA Presidency in May. Prince Ali,  issued a statement this morning saying he will attempt to unseat Blatter at the election on May 29 when the veteran Swiss will be seeking a fifth term.

“I am seeking the presidency of FIFA because I believe it is time to shift the focus a{alt_text}way from administrative controversy and back to sport,” said Prince Ali, who loses his FIFA vice-presidency and seat of FIFA’s executive committee, the top table of world football, a few weeks before the election as a result of a change of statutes within his own Asian confederation.

“This was not an easy decision. It came after careful consideration and many discussions with respected FIFA colleagues over the last few months. The headlines should be about football, not about FIFA.”

Prince Ali has been encouraged by Michel Platini and UEFA who have been desperate to back an alternative candidate to Blatter following Platini’s decision not to stand. In an official announcement 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.”

Platini and UEFA will throw their weight behind his candidacy, probably more enthusiastically than his own confederation who will likely be split by his decision to run. Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa, president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), has already indicated support for Blatter.

Prince Ali has become a close friend of US Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati who was earlier rumoured to be considering running for the Presidency having been approached by the Europeans.  Gulati will be a strong supporter of Prince Ali and will be expected to deliver Caribbean votes or at least split a CONCACAF that has indicated it would most likely support Blatter.

Alongside UEFA support for Prince Ali on FIFA Executive Committee will likely be Women’s Representative Moya Dodd who like Gulati is close to Ali. She has similarly been disenfranchised by her own Asia Football Confederation which will vote this week  at an extraordinary AGM, to scrap the AFC Female Vice Presidency she currently occupies.

Prince Ali, who has held Asia’s FIFA VP role since 2011, was among the  senior Administrators to call for the publication of former Ethics Investigator Michael Garcia’s report into possible wrongdoing during the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bid process.

Garcia resigned last month in protest over the handling of his report which FIFA subsequently said would be published after all but in redacted form to protect witnesses who were interviewed.

In recent weeks, a possible challenge by Prince Ali appeared to be waning given the risk of taking on Blatter and how much support might be forthcoming from around the world.
But Prince Ali, head of the Jordanian FA who also runs the West Asian Football Federations (WAFF) and the not-for-profit Asian Football Development Project, said he had been encouraged to stand by colleagues.

“The message I heard, over and over, was that it is time for a change,” he said. “The world game deserves a world-class governing body – an International Federation that is a service organisation and a model of ethics, transparency and good governance.

“FIFA exists to serve a sport which unites billions of people from all over the world, people of differing and divergent political, religious and social affiliations, who come together in their enjoyment of ‘the world’s game’.”

With the deadline for candidates set at January 29 – four months before the election – he joins former FIFA employee Jerome Champagne as the only other challenger to have confirmed a challenge for the presidency.