KEIR RADNEDGE in ZURICH: Sheikh Salman, Baldrick-style, has come up with a cunning plan to bypass a central pillar of the FIFA reforms proposals.

The Bahraini president of the Asian confederation, on a whistle-stop tour around conferences of the regional football confederations, left no doubt about his opposition to the proposal to reduce from 26 to nine the number of standing committees of the world football federation.

Setting out at the conference staged by central and north American body CONCACAF, Sheikh Salman reassured officials that he would protect the privileges and perks they gain from seats on the international federation’s worldwide web of committees.

Sheikh Salman, being pursued around Zurich by his four rivals to succeed Sepp Blatter as FIFA president here tomorrow, said: “Reform is an evolving issue. Tomorrow is not the end of [hearing about] reforms. Some of them will need to be changed in the future or we will need add a few items. That’s fine, that’s life.

More task forces

“One of the main concerns, taking to people around the globe, is about bringing down the number of the committees from 26 to nine. I can promise you, if I am elected, that the number of commitees serving in FIFA will not change – whether through commissions or task forces or whatever. I’m sure we need most of you around.

“Participation in the FIFA administration gives us the experience to know how things are done and get to know people from all around the world. This is an investment in the people we have.”

Sheikh Salman, stretching the message in search of a common thread, repeatedly compared the problems to have confronted scandal-hit CONCACAF with the strife his own Asian confederation had undergone a few years earlier.

He also repeated his standard attack on the development spending expansion enumerated by his main election rival Gianni Infantino, the general secretary of UEFA.

Sheikh Salman said: “I’m not ready to mortgage FIFA’s future in winning an election.

“Yesterday we had our executive committee in FIFA and there was a suggestion under the financial statements we had – can FIFA afford to give such amounts in the future? The simple answer was No.

“We have to be realistic about what we can achieve. We can increase the amounts but how? Everyone has different needs. We need to focus our attention on those countries who are in most need.”

Other candidates

The other candidates also addressed the other conferences of Africa, Europe, Oceania and South America (The Asian confederation did not hold an eve-of-congress conference).

Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al Hussein expounded his campaign for “a change of culture that brings back power to the national associations.”

His proposals included “a dedicated national stadium in every federation in the world,” locall-staffed regional development offices, and an oversight group of respected outsiders to be led by former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan.

Infantino stated the need to address “football and football development”. He defended his proposals to ramp up FIFA’s development spending on the basis of his finance control experience within UEFA.

He explained: “We can increase the revenues to $5m per federation easily not by increasng the revenues of FIFA but just by looking at the costs structure of FIFA. Something is wrong if we cannot find $1bn out of the $5bn which is spent.”

French outsider Jerome Champagne promised that, if elected, FIFA would have “an independent president” while South African Tokyo Sexwale said his priority for the world game was “to change brown pitches into green.”

# # # #