BRUSSELS: The international trades union movement has added its voice to increasing concerns about the prospect of Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa running for the presidency of world fooball federation FIFA writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
At a time when all sports governing bodies are coming under increasing expectation to demonstrate a commgtment to human rights, the Bahraini’s possible bid for world football power is becoming an issue in its own rights.
The deadline for nominations closes on Monday ahead of FIFA’s emergency elective congress next February 26 to come up with a successor to outgoing, suspended Sepp Blatter.
Both Blatter and Michel Platini, French president of European federation UEFA, have been suspended provisinally for three months by the FIFA ethics committee over allegations of financial misconduct (which they deny).
Sheikh Salman, president of the Asian Football Confederation, has indicated that he is considering stepping into the campaign void left by Platini’s credibility crisis. This has raised alarms among both a string of pressure groups as well as senior sports officials who want FIFA to emerge from the quagmire of controversy rather than sink into yet another one.
The issue around Sheikh Salman concerns allegations – which he has denied – of complicity in the detention and torture of footballers and other athletes in a human rights crackdown in Bahrain in 2011.
Gemma Swart, secretary-general of the International Trade Union Confederation, said: “It is inconceivable that someone who is facing such grave allegations of human rights violations could step into the void at the top of FIFA.”
In 2014, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy urged FIFA’s then ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia to investigate allegations that “at least six footballers from the Bahrain national football team were arrested, defamed and tortured following their public identification and humiliation by authorities, including the BFA.
“More than 150 athletes, coaches and referees were jailed after a special committee, chaired by the former BFA president Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, identified them from protest photos.”
Garcia responded that he had no jurisdiction to investigating violations beyond strict FIFA Code of Ethics.
Swart added: “FIFA’s plan to forge ahead with electing a new president as crisis after crisis engulfs it at the highest levels is not credible. An independent and credible reform process, that guarantees the highest standards of governance and respect for human rights, is urgently needed.”