London - The campaign to succeed Sepp Blatter as FIFA chief turned
bitter on Friday when a presidential candidate asked for an investigation into
whether his main rival is trying to break election rules.
Prince Ali bin al-Hussein accused Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al
Khalifa of a "blatant attempt to engineer a bloc vote" by signing a
pact between the Asian Football Confederation he heads and its counterpart in
With 54 voters, Africa has the biggest say in the Feb. 26
presidential vote by FIFA's 209 federations. The four-year accord is between
the AFC and the Confederation of African Football headed by Issa Hayatou, who
is also acting FIFA president following Blatter's ban.
It will be up to FIFA election watchdog Domenico Scala, who chairs
the audit and compliance committee plus the electoral committee, to decide
whether there is anything wrong with the Africa-Asia deal being announced six
weeks before the vote.
"I am concerned that there has been an attempt to breach
electoral rules in the FIFA presidential election," Prince Ali, who is
also Jordanian Football Association president, said in a statement. "I
have written to the FIFA ad-hoc electoral committee informing them of my
concerns and asking them to examine the matter."
The escalating public dispute between the presidential rivals —
both members of Middle East royal families — is damaging for FIFA as it tries
to make a fresh start after bribery and fraud scandals. Blatter was last month
banned from the sport for eight years over an unethical payment to UEFA
President Michel Platini.
Bahrain's Sheikh Salman, who is considered to the front-runner to
replace Blatter, signed the co-operation agreement with Hayatou at an event in
Rwanda on Friday ahead of the African Nations Championship. Described as a
"re-launch" of existing mutual ties, the memorandum of understanding
formalizes Asia and Africa helping each other on integrity, administration and
"I have always promoted cross-regional understanding, however
the timing of this MoU between the AFC and the CAF looks like a blatant attempt
to engineer a bloc vote," Prince Ali said. "Africa's proud football
associations are not for sale and development resources belonging to national
football associations should not be used by presidential candidates and
confederation presidents for political expediency.
"Questions must be asked: was this deal approved by the
members of the executive committees of both the AFC and CAF and is the timing
of the announcement, prior to a presidential election, acceptable? Now more
than ever, this apparent exploitation of confederation resources shows the
world that the actions of individuals must stop bringing FIFA into
There was no immediate response from Sheikh Salman's campaign. On
the CAF website earlier Friday, Sheikh Salman said: "This is indeed a
memorable day when our two great confederations come together in the spirit of
friendship and co-operation."
Sheikh Salman and Prince Ali are competing against UEFA general
secretary Gianni Infantino, former FIFA official Jerome Champagne and South
African businessman Tokyo Sexwale in a five-man election field.
Prince Ali was beaten in May's presidential election by Blatter,
who announced resignation plans the following week in the wake of criminal
investigations into FIFA officials, and was later banished by the ethics judge.
The prince served on FIFA's executive committee from 2011 until May 2015.