KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- The head of Asian football is facing more opposition to his bid to change the rules of the AFC to ease his bid to extend his reign.

Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa wants to stand, at next April’s Asian Football Confederation Congress, for re-election to the presidency he has held since coming to power in 2013. He succeeded Mohamed bin Hammam after the Qatari businessman was banned for life for confusing AFC bank accounts with his own.

Sheikh Salman was re-elected in 2015 for a full four-year term in his own right and raised the status of the presidency by persuading the AFC to appoint him also as its vice-president of world federation FIFA; previously the roles had been separate.

Sheikh Salman . . . AFC president since 2013

Now he is worried now that his own Bahrain FA, having come under Saudi influence, will not nominate him. Hence Sheikh Salman is seeking to push a change to AFC statutes through tomorrow’s ordinary congress.

A proposed change to Article 38 of AFC statutes would remove the need for a candidate to be nominated by his home FA. Support from at least three other federations would suffice.  Sheikh Salman has been assured he would then have no problem if Bahrain refuses its backing.

His proposal to change the rules has upset a number of national associations.

Power games

Initial opposition came from Saudi Arabia whose own former FA president Adel Ezzat has announced he will stand for the presidency next year.

Now the United Arab Emirates has joined in, notifying all the AFC member associations that “we strongly object to the proposed amendment to the (newly numbered) Article 38 [which] directly infringes upon the autonomy of each member association to nominate candidates to the AFC Executive Committee.”

The letter adds: “It ignores the fact that CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, CAF and the OFC (as well as the AFC at the time of writing!) all require the member association to which an individual is affiliated to nominate that individual for the role of confederation president.”

As far as the UAE is concerned, trying to push such a change through congress, “is bad corporate governance.”

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are political allies in spheres beyond football, notably in relation to the diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar. But they are not understood to be alone in opposing Sheikh Salman.

Other FAs, such as Qatar and South Korea, may want to run their own candidates for AFC president next year- or, at the least, split the vote in highly complex political manoeuvring.

The balance of power has changed significantly over the last two years.

Sheikh Salman failed in his bid for the FIFA presidency in 2016 and his most powerful supporter, Olympic power-broker Sheikh Ahmad bin Fahad Al Sabah, has stepped back amid royal family problems in Kuwait and to avoid FIFA issues over unproven allegations (which he denies) arising out of the United States authorities’ FIFAGate scandal investigation.