Can Vero PR spin machine help topple Sepp Blatter?

Story highlights

  • Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein and Luis Figo both candidates in FIFA presidential election
  • Pair are having their campaigns run by same London communications firm Vero
  • Dutchman Michael van Praag also in contest along with incumbent Sepp Blatter
  • FIFA presidential election takes place on May 29 in Switzerland

(CNN)Could you imagine a presidential election where two hopeful candidates had their campaigns run by the same communications firm?

Welcome to the world of football where two men hoping to become the leader of FIFA, football's world governing body, are using the same campaign company despite ostensibly being in opposition.
Luis Figo, the former Barcelona and Real Madrid midfielder and Jordan's Prince Ali Bin-Al Hussein have engaged London-based Vero Communications to help land them the top job.
    A public relations company with great experience in sport, Vero also has a wider communications brief working with UEFA, the European confederation within FIFA.
    Meaning truth in Latin, Vero has enjoyed great success helping Qatar win the hosting bid for the 2022 World Cup, running Brian Cookson's successful presidential bid for the International Cycling Union (UCI) and working with the city of Belo Horizonte during the World Cup in Brazil.
    Now it is set to play a key role in the presidential election -- by representing two of the candidates.
    Both men along with Dutchman Michael van Praag are hoping to bring an end to the 17-year reign of Sepp Blatter, who at the age of 78 is aiming for a fifth consecutive term in office.
    But why are Figo, one of the finest players of his generation and Ali, the Jordanian prince who sits on the FIFA Executive Committee, both using Vero to promote their campaigns?
    Responding to questions from CNN, Vero confirmed it was working on both campaigns.
    "Vero is proud to be providing Prince Ali with strategic campaign and media relations support," said the statement.
    "We also offer communications support, via the Portuguese Football Federation, to Luis Figo's campaign, and that includes his press conference in London this week.
    "Vero also has an ongoing contract with UEFA, advising on a range of strategic communications matters.
    "We share a common commitment with all three reforming candidates and UEFA to bring about positive change at FIFA."
    FIFA did not immediately respond to CNN's questions as to whether Blatter was using a PR firm and how he was funding his re-election campaign
    UEFA does not appear to have a problem with both the campaigns of Prince Ali and Luis Figo being run by the same company with the organization preferring to support a change of direction within FIFA rather than back one specific candidate.
    Rather than consider the two men opponents, the European governing body is believed to see the emergence of both Prince Ali and Figo as two men who are sharing the common goal of reforming FIFA and providing open and democratic debate.
    In a statement, UEFA told CNN: "UEFA appointed Vero Communications as a consultant in March of 2014 to help support and develop its international communications activities.
    "As part of the contract with UEFA, Vero deals with various matters concerning European and global football."
    While van Praag's campaign is being run separately, all three candidates are expected to meet ahead of the election.
    UEFA president Michel Platini has been outspoken in his desire to see change at the top of world football and wants Blatter removed from the top job when the election takes place on May 29.
    He is likely to hold talks with the candidates a month or so before the election to see whether they have received enough support from the 209 national associations.
    It is thought that at least one of the three might pull out before the contest and instead pledge his votes to the candidate with the best chance of defeating Blatter.
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    While FIFA's image has been tarnished by numerous scandals under Blatter's leadership, the Swiss remains favorite to retain his position.
    The resignation of ethics investigator Michael Garcia over the organization's handling of its own report into alleged corruption surrounding the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids brought great embarrassment.
    But Blatter's presidential rivals appear to have their work cut out to unseat the incumbent given the bedrock of support he enjoys, particularly in Africa.
    "Blatter has been very key for the development of the game in Africa," Amaju Pinnick, head of the Nigerian Football Association told CNN.
    "There's no fear. There are 54 countries -- I'm not going to say 100% that it's a secret ballot, it's not an open ballot, but everybody I've spoken to is in one direction.
    "You need to decide that this man is an African, he feels African, he has supported Africa, and I will give him that support."
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    All four presidential candidates will be traveling to meet associations and hold talks over the election in the next couple of months.
    In an exclusive interview with CNN last month where he announced his intention to stand for president, Figo spoke of the need for change at the top of world football.
    The 42-year-old, who made 127 international appearances for Portugal, is admired by his fellow professionals and those who work within the game.
    "I can say I'm a real candidate after today and I'm looking forward to opening the debate and trying to get the support of many federations to have the chance to be the president," added Figo.
    "I think to [take] this step you have to be prepared. Of course I did my homework but I have a lot of things that I have to learn, to improve, but if your mind is open I think it's much more easy.
    "I have my ideas about what is football and what is good for improving FIFA but I think my experience of my career is a positive thing that allows me to understand a lot of the game. My first priority is to know from the federations what they need.
    "I think one important thing is to increase the solidarity payments to the federations, because right now FIFA has so many financial reserves that belong to the federations."
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    Prince Ali, who spoke exclusively to CNN earlier this month, said he would leave FIFA altogether if Blatter won re-election.
    "I think the main point is to have a new culture" Ali told CNN in an interview after he addressed the media for the first time since announcing his intention to run.
    "It's about not having the game controlled by people's personal opinions or the whims of the president. It needs to be inclusive for all."
    "I've tried as much as I can to reform it from within... having seen what's happened I'm not going to allow another four years of this," Prince Ali added while talking about FIFA's internal workings.