KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Prince Ali of Jordan, without mentioning Sepp Blatter or Michel Platini, has stood firm on the need for new leadership to lead FIFA away from the brink of abyss.

The world federation’s staff were left in disbelief yesterday after Swiss police confronted president Blatter in his own office in Zurich with a criminal investigation which also raised questions about the credibility of Platini, the head of European governing body UEFA.

Prince Ali, who denied Blatter a first-round victory in the presidential election last May, is standing again ahead of the extraordinary congress to choose a new leader next February 26.

Platini, until being caught up in the latest FIFA scandal by the Swiss Attorney-Office Michael Laubert, had been considered the presidential front-runner. He was , until comparatively recently, a supporter of Blatter and has been a member of the FIFA establishement as a vice-president since 2007.

Prince Ali reacted to yesterday’s latest drama in Zurich, when Blatter and Platini were questioned directly after an executive committee meeting, with a statement demanding a clean sweep of the old guard.

He said: “The need for new leadership that can restore the credibility of FIFA has never been more apparent.

Scandal scars

“We cannot change the past, but we can have a future where FIFA member associations are able to focus on football rather than worrying about the next scandal or criminal investigation involving FIFA leadership.

“We have to accept that changing FIFA is not a matter of choice; it has already changed, shaken to its very core by the scandals that have decimated our governing body and cast a cloud over the entire organisation.”

A recalibrated FIFA, said Prince Ali, needed to prove it was worthy of serving the game’s players, fans and youngsters who represent football’s future.

Recalling events which he helped precipitate at congress in May, he added: “Change is a process. It is not an event. The process of change at FIFA began in May. We have an opportunity in February to carry that momentum forward.

“We must now come together and work to restore FIFA’s credibility and reputation by bringing about the change that is so clearly needed.

“I have heard from many member associations over the last 24 hours, and what I have heard gives me confidence that, working together, we can emerge from this stronger.”