KEIR RADNEDGE in ZURICH: Les Murray, a former member of the FIFA ethics committee, has urged Australia’s federation to abstain from the presidential election vote on Friday in Zurich on the grounds that none of the five candidates is up to the job.
Murray, writing for the webite of SBS for he whom he was top football commentator, said neither Prince Ali of Jordan, Frenchman Jerome Champagne, senior UEFA official Gianni Infantino, Asian president Sheikh Salman or South African Tokyo Sexwake had a record which inspired any confidence in the massive task at hand.
“This is not a reference to the moral baggage most of them carry. It is more that not one of them has a substantial track record for fighting FIFA corruption and agitating for reform.
“Two of them, Sheikh Salman and Prince Ali, have at various times been members of FIFA’s executive committee. Champagne was deep in FIFA’s inner sanctum for years. Yet during those times they said and did nothing about corruption.
“There is simply no genuine, long term, believable moral reformer, much less crusader, among the five candidates. Yet that’s what FIFA desperately needs at this time.”
The candidate Murray selected for most of his ire was Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa.
Murray said: “The worst case of a corruption-tolerant turned reformer is Salman.
“As head of the Asian Football Confederation this man vigorously backed Sepp Blatter before the last election in May 2015. After Blatter stepped aside Salman, now the bookmakers’ favourite to become president, backed the replacement candidate, Michel Platini.
“And now Salman is a reformer? Pardon me for laughing.”
Murray followed up on the criticisms of Sheikh – which he has refuted – over the Bahraini’s alleged role in the crackdown on footballers who supported the pro-democracy demonstrations in 2011 as well as his conduct within the 2009 AFC presidential election.
“The saving grace,” said Murray, “might be that, in a sense, it will not matter who is elected president because his agenda and his manifesto will become largely redundant [because of the reform recommendations].”
Murray then focused on how Australia – an Asian confederation member – should vote on Friday.
The FFA was “between a rock and a hard place.”
He added: “On the one hand they will want to please Sheikh Salman, the AFC president and good mate of Sheikh Ahmed of Kuwait, an open doubter of Australia’s right to be an AFC member.
“But on the other there is such a thing as a moral compass. Voting for Salman would send a tardy message to Australia and the tax payers who, through government grants, spend serious amounts of money on the FFA.
“Australia, I repeat, should abstain from the vote.”