KEIR RADNEDGE in LONDON: FIFA vice-president Prince Ali of Jordan believes that the next four years will be “make or break” for the world football federation.
Prince Ali was talking, on BBC Radio’s Sportsweek, after further twists over the presidency and the delivery of the long-awaited 2018/2022 scandal report and political pressure over the World Cup stagings in Russia and Qatar.
Eleven days ago UEFA leader Michel Platini insisted he would not run against long-serving Sepp Blatter for the top FIFA job next year, leaving only rank outsider Jerome Champagne in the race.
Prince Ali called for a process which would focus not on personalities but on vision and ideals for the future of the world game and its governing body. Time, he suggested, was not on FIFA’s side in redefining its role and purpose.
He said: “We have to look at organising FIFA in terms of a reverse pyramid where you put the players and the fans and team managers, the referees at the top of the pyramid so we [in FIFA] are just there to serve and facilitate the game.
“That’s the way we should go in the future.”
Prince Ali, whose own presence on the FIFA executive committee is at risk after manoeuvring within the Asian confederation, indicated that he accepted Blatter is clear favourite to be re-elected next May for a fifth term. But a walkover would not serve the interests of the game.
He said: “Obviously incumbents have the best chance of coming back in and it’s a very big organisation with many members and each one with an equal vote but it’s always healthy to have a competition and I think that should be the case.
“The most important thing is that I hope that any election is not based on personality but on someone with a clear mandate who will take us not just for the next few years but 10 years down the line, someone who will have a real concrete plan.
“I think the next four years, regardless of who comes in as president, are going to be crucial years and will be make or break years for FIFA.”
On other issues Prince Ali dismissed political talk of pressing FIFA to strip Russia and/or Qatar of their World Cup hostings because of wider international issues.
He said: “Politics should have nothing to do with the sport. Football is for the whole world. It is a competition for everyone . . . a sport for the entire world. I don’t think political atmospheres should be involved in the sport itself. It’s dangerous.
“The only people to suffer would be the players and the fans. As long as things are done correctly then the World Cup should be hosted anywhere regardless of politics.
“The important thing is that we have two wonderful World Cups coming up and it’s very important to take it to different parts of the world . . . and it’s very important for Asia to have a World Cup in our region.”