KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —– FIFA election tension has been ramped up with Michel Platini and Sheikh Salman from Bahrain being reported to FIFA’s ethics committee over an alleged breach of campaign regulations.
A complaint against the presidents of the European and Asian confederations (UEFA and the AFC) has been raised by Chung Mong-joon, the South Korean billionaire competing with Platini to succeed Sepp Blatter as president of the world football federation.
Blatter was re-elected for a fifth term in office in May but almost immediately decided to step down under the weight of the FIFAGate scandal. An election congress will be staged next February 26. Platini and Chung are the two declared ‘heavyweight’ contenders.
Chung, who was Asia’s FIFA vice-president for 17 years until 2011, revealed his latest ‘dirty tricks’ complaint in Seoul today. He has already attacked Blatter’s office with an allegation of unwarranted interference in the election campaign.
This time the 63-year-old’s anger was directly specifically at the AFC for seeking to subvert the election by sending templates of a letter in support of Platini to many of its 46 member associations.
Chung said: “Most AFC member countries including China, Japan, Mongolia, India, and Singapore received this letter.” He noted, however, that it had not been sent either to his own South Korea association or to Jordan, whose president is Platini critic Prince Ali bin Al Hussein.
Prince Ali was defeated by Blatter in May and is considering whether to stand again though European federations which backed him last time would switch their votes to Platini.
Chung has no doubt about the authenticity of intent of Sheihk Salman’s AFC in distributing the letter template.
He said: “Sheikh Salman, president of the AFC, has publicly supported Michel Platini,” and noted that the text of the letter “is clearly defined as ‘support of the candidature of Mr MP for the office of FIFA president, to be elected at the next FIFA extraordinary congress 2016.’
“[The letter] further states that “…just for good order, we wish to confirm that [NAME ASSOCIATION] is supporting only Mr MP and, accordingly, we did not sign any other declaration of support for another candidate for the office of FIFA president.”
Chung further alleged that the “director and staff members of AFC’s department of member associations and development has made private phone calls to individual member associations, checking to see whether they sent in completed form letters to FIFA.”
He claimed that similar round-robin attempts had been made in Africa by a senior official of the Confederation of African Football and “it is likely that such incidents have occurred at other confederations.”
Chung did not point a finger of blame, in the African case, at CAF itself or its president Issa Hayatou, who is FIFA’s senior vice-president. He said: “After CAF became fully aware of this incident, it conducted an internal review, deemed [the] behaviour highly improper and took measures to rectify the situation.”
The central issue, for Chung, was that the confederations have no formal role in the election process but, given their influence, “it is clear that the fairness of the FIFA presidential election has been seriously compromised . . . efforts seeking to influence each member associations’ right to propose a candidate directly violate Articles 24.1 and 17.1 of the FIFA Statutes.”
Turning his fire directly on Platini and Sheikh Salman he added: “The electoral committee’s guidelines emphasize that candidates holding official positions within FIFA should not abuse their position of power in the election process.
“If Salman and Platini are taking advantage of their status as the AFC and UEFA presidents and seeking to intervene in the election process, their actions are in breach of the basic principles of election and violate FIFA’s spirit of ‘fair play.’
“Such acts also clearly violate Articles 1.2, 1.3 and 1.4 of Electoral Regulations for FIFA Presidency that demand FIFA presidential elections be carried out in a fair, transparent and reputable manner. It is an obvious case of election fraud infringing on the basic rights of other presidential candidates.”
Hence a formal complaint had been raised with electoral committee chair Domenico Scala and with ethics investigatory head Cornel Borbely.
Chung was demanding they “immediately investigate the facts and the parties, including Sheikh Salman, the CAF senior official, Mr Platini, as well as the related confederations and members.”
He launched his latest salvo just as the controversially created FIFA Reform Committee, chaired by ex-IOC director-general Francois Carrard, prepared to start a second day’s work in Bern.
The AFC, in a statement of response to Chung’s attack, confirmed that Sheikh Salman had expressed his support for Platini. In contacting some associations it had been responding to the “many AFC member associations [who] have, unsurprisingly, contacted AFC to ask how they can express their support for a specific candidate.”
Asian Football Confederation statement:
The FIFA Presidential elections next February will be decided by the FIFA Congress, which is made up of FIFA’s 209 member associations, of whom 46 are also Asian Football Confederation (AFC) members. As in any election, the electorate will be asked for their support by the candidates and will then be free to vote for the candidate of their choice; the elections will be held by secret ballot and so no member will be required to disclose who they have voted for.
Any association who wishes to support a specific candidacy – or to announce their own candidate – is free to do so, whether by letter, via media conferences and statements, or through any other way that they so choose.
It is of particular note that FIFA has in recent years introduced a requirement that obliges any Presidential candidate hoping to stand to obtain declarations of support from FIFA member associations before they can even be formally accepted as an eligible candidate. Therefore it is to be expected that, as required by FIFA, all candidates are currently seeking declarations of support in order to comply with the eligibility requirements before next month’s deadline for submission of candidatures.
Furthermore, because one of AFC’s roles, like any Confederation, is to act as a collective voice for its associations within FIFA, many AFC member associations have, unsurprisingly, contacted AFC to ask how they can express their support for a specific candidate.
The AFC President is, according to the AFC Statutes, responsible for relations with FIFA and other Confederations, and has already expressed his personal preference for the candidacy of Michel Platini, as quoted in the statement of 30 July. AFC also communicated then that it was in contact with FIFA and its sister Confederations to discuss the future of FIFA and the best way forward.
A growing majority of AFC member associations have also expressed their support for Mr Platini’s candidacy, based on his credentials to lead world football, whilst others have expressed an interest for other candidates, have expressed no interest at all, or are waiting before making up their minds.
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