GENEVA: FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein has accused one of his rivals, Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, of failing to protect players.

Sheikh Salman is a member of the Bahrain royal family and has attracted attention from human rights organisation, the Bahrain Institue for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), due to the regime’s role in the suppression of the country’s pro-democracy demonstrations in 2011, which saw some footballers imprisoned and allegedly tortured.

He has always denied any involvement and issued a statement recently dismissing the claims as ‘entirely false’.

However, Prince Ali has revived the issue with a thinly-veiled attack on Sheikh Salman, by telling a news conference in Geneva: “The simple, basic fact of the matter is that person did not protect or stick up for his players at that time.”

Prince Ali’s comments will intensify the rivalry between the two Asian candidates ahead of the election of Sepp Blatter’s successor on February 26. Three other candidates, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, France’s Jerome Champagne and Tokyo Sexwale of South Africa are also standing.

If elected, Prince Ali insisted he would ensure that FIFA underwent a complete transformation and promised an end to the system of patronage that has underpinned football’s governing body for decades.

He added: “This election will determine whether a small group of powerful individuals will hold FIFA hostage.”

Prince Ali also claimed that FIFA leaders in the past had used their power to exert pressure on federations which did not ‘toe the line’.

He said: “Development projects mysteriously stall; tournament hosting bids are suddenly compromised or withdrawn; national teams start to mysteriously face less favourable fixtures or even referees.

“All of these are effective ways to punish member associations that fail to demonstrate political loyalty.”

Prince Ali served on FIFA’s executive committee betwen 2011 and 2015 but described himself as a rebel.

He described the exco conference room as “a bunker – three floors underground [which] is not the vision that one should have for that organisation.

“There is a problem where minutes are not published and, even when they are received they are not accurate, in my opinion.”

He said that if elected, he would review the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar if there were proof of wrongdoing and would also look at allegations of maltreatment of migrant construction workers.

“I will, as president, be there to make sure that human rights and workers’ rights are abided by,” he said.