FIFA set to elect new president on Friday
Five men are in the running to replace Sepp Blatter
New reforms set to be introduced by football's world governing body
A new dawn or a missed opportunity? That’s the question facing world football’s governing body.
On Friday, FIFA will finally elect a new president and attempt to move on from one of the most chastening episodes in its history.
Five men, all with their own ideas and agendas, will fight it out to replace Sepp Blatter and become the new leader of the world game.
But whoever takes over from Blatter faces an almighty challenge to restore the public’s faith in FIFA.
Arrests, allegations of corruption and wrongdoing have dragged the organization’s reputation through the mud.
The Swiss authorities are investigating the bidding process surrounding the 2018 and 2022 World Cups while the U.S. authorities an inquiry of its own going on.
So can FIFA be saved?
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How did we get here?
When Blatter was re-elected as president of FIFA for a fifth time last May few would have predicted how quickly his kingdom would crumble.
Blatter, who was first elected in 1998, defied the challenge of Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein to win the vote and rejoiced on stage with a rendition of “let’s go FIFA” in front of a packed auditorium.
At that point, there was little indication of what was to follow – even with the arrests of several football officials in Zurich over allegations of racketeering and money laundering days before his victory.
Days later, with FIFA still in shock at the arrests of several officials, Blatter announced he would lay down his mandate.
Now, less than a year on, he has been ostracized, banned from all football related activities with that suspension set to continue until 2022.
Blatter, whose eight-year ban was reduced by two years by the FIFA appeals committee, was found guilty of breaches surrounding a $2m “disloyal payment” to UEFA president Michel Platini, who was also barred for the same period. He, too, is a mere onlooker with his presidential aspirations spent.
Blatter is also under investigation by Swiss authorities on “suspicion of criminal mismanagement.”
Both men are set to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport – but those won’t be heard until after the election.
Who are the candidates?
Five men are all hoping to replace Blatter at the top of world football with 207 of the 209 members set to vote with two countries suspended.
Gianni Infantino, the general secretary of UEFA, the European governing body, has been in bullish mood ahead of the election.
Despite having to fend off accusations that he is standing as a proxy of Platini, the 45-year-old has claimed he is confident of receiving a number of votes from Africa despite the continent’s governing body having pledged to support another candidate.
That candidate is Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, who believes he is in pole position to win with votes from Africa and Asia.
Sheikh Salman, head of the Asian Football Confederation and former leader of Bahrain’s FA, has seen his campaign dogged by allegations of human rights abuses – which he has strongly rejected.
He told CNN that he had “nothing to hide” and has been used as a “political tool”.
Prince Ali, who claimed 73 votes in last year’s election, may struggle this time around, with his own confederation expected to back Sheikh Salman. The Jordanian prince has asked FIFA to look into an agreement between the Asian and African football confederations, which he claims will allow the two federations to bloc vote, something he says will give his Bahraini rival an unfair advantage.
Tokyo Sexwale, the South African candidate, and Jerome Champagne, who has worked for FIFA in the past, are not expected to receive more than a handful of votes between them.
Champagne, a former French diplomat, previously served as FIFA international relations director, while Sexwale served on the organizing committee for South Africa’s 2010 World Cup. He has also presented the South African version of the hit TV show “The Apprentice.”
How the vote works
Each association gets a single vote which is cast in a secret ballot – thought not inside a transparent booth as Prince Ali had requested.
There are 207 votes up for grabs with Kuwait and Indonesia ineligible after breaching FIFA regulations on governmental interference in their respective national associations.
To win in the opening round of voting a two-thirds majority is required – if that doesn’t happen then a second round of voting will take place where a simple majority will suffice.
What else is happening?
FIFA’s members will vote on reforms with the governing body trying to ensure it protects itself against the problems which has tarnished its reputation over the years.
For any proposals to be passed, a 50% turnout is required with 75% of those voting in favor.
FIFA’s acting president Issa Hayatou has already stressed how vital these reforms are to the organization’s future.
One of the ideas being put forward is the abolition of the 24-member executive committee with a new 37-seat FIFA council being set up in its place.
The council will be responsible for strategy and overseeing the daily workload with members elected by national associations of their respective regions.
Other reforms include term limits for the president or member of the council and the disclosure of compensation and salary paid to key figures.
An increase in the number of women on the council, six of the 37 seats on the new council – 16% – will be reserved for women, and the streamlining of committees from 26 to nine will also be voted on.
Where can I follow the latest developments?
CNN’s Alex Thomas is live on the ground from Zurich and will have all the latest from the election.
You can read up on FIFA’s recent troubles in bite-size form here.