With Fifa set to elect a new leader to herald a brave new era, it remains to be seen if any of the presidential candidates running can offer the change craved so keenly by the masses beyond the corridors of their exhibitionistic Zurich home.
The world football governing body has several interests which it needs to protect, emphasised most acutely by the suggestion, backed at least in part by all candidates, that the World Cup should be expanded from 32 to 40 teams.
Such a pledge guarantees favour with smaller footballing nations, who hold the same electoral power as larger states, with the move likely to bring unprecedented riches and opportunity across the global spectrum.
Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa, Gianni Infantino, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein and Jerome Champagne will learn their fate at some point this evening with all 207 eligible nations currently voting for Sepp Blatter’s successor. Tokyo Sexwale, previously the rank outsider, withdrawn from the running this afternoon at the end of his speech outlining what Fifa must do to go forward.
The glare of tomorrow’s back – and front – pages will be fixed solely on the triumphant candidate but the reform proposals, approved before a single presidential vote had been cast, is the true story of the day in Zurich.
Fifa members passed a package of reforms designed to repair the organisation’s tarnished reputation and safeguard it against the sort of corruption which has threatened its very existence.
201 of the eligible 207 countries elected to vote (Indonesia and Kuwait were suspended) with 179 in favour of the reforms which aim to improve accountability, transparency, diversity and governance matters including term times of elected officials.
Despite opposition from Gonzalo Boye Tuset of the Palestine Football Association, who called for “revolution not evolution” the vote went ahead with the required 50 per cent turnout.
Fifa presidential candidates explained
Fifa presidential candidates explained
1/5 Gianni Infantino, 45, Italian/Swiss
Uefa general secretary, joined in 2000 as a lawyer
“Fundamental reforms must be at the heart of Fifa to ensure that it regains the trust of both the football world and the wider public. These reforms need to be structural but also cultural in nature. In this respect, Fifa must demonstrate that it has the strength and determination to reform itself into a modern, well governed, institution which is a worthy leader for the world’s number one sport.”
Expanding the World Cup to upwards of 40 nations, ensuring smaller countries are represented.
2016 Anadolu Agency
2/5 Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa, 50, Bahraini
Asian Football Confederation president and Fifa vice-president
“My track record demonstrates that I can be relied upon to serve associations and the global football community with distinction and to lead Fifa through this critical transition. Starting out as a player, I then worked my way up through the ranks of the Bahrain Football Association to become President. Consequently, I fully understand the daily realities and difficulties faced by associations, clubs and players in everyday football.”
Splitting Fifa into two entities, one for commercial practises and another for footballing operations.
3/5 Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, 40, Jordanian
President of Jordan Football Association and founder and president of the West Asian Football Federation, former Fifa vice-president
“I know well the challenges faced every day to develop football in countries around the world. I also know Fifa well from the inside, having served as Fifa Vice President and as a member of both the Fifa Executive Committee and the AFC Executive Committee for the past four years. Most importantly, I am a straight-forward person with straight-forward ideas and ethics — a person who loves our sport. I believe in uncompromising integrity. In good leadership. In fair play. In a service oriented approach. And in hard work.”
Total development of football around the world, quadrupling the amount of money member associations receives to increase sustainability.
2015 Anadolu Agency
4/5 Tokyo Sexwale, 62, South African
Mining businessman, anti-apartheid campaigner and ex-member of the Fifa anti-discrimination task force
“All this occurs in the midst of unprecedented action by law enforcement agencies against several leaders of FIFA. As a Presidential candidate, I fully understand that these are difficult times for FIFA, which demands extraordinary and resolute leadership. These events, do not mean the death knell of football, the biggest sport in the world played since time immemorial and still to be played for many generations to come.”
Growing and developing football worldwide, enhancing all 205 nations not just the recognised bigger countries.
5/5 Jerome Champagne, 57, French
Consultant in international football, a former diplomat who worked at Fifa as an executive and advisor to Sepp Blatter for 11 years
“In my view, and as I've written and said many times, we must continue and further improve what has been done well under the mandates of Presidents Havelange and Blatter: implement development programs, organize FIFA competitions on every continent, and take the correct sports policy decisions (e.g. the exclusion of South Africa because of apartheid in 1976). But we must do more. We must do better. Above all, we must do it differently.”
Strengthening the role of national associations, involving leagues, clubs and players in the decision-making process.
Chiefly among the accepted reforms package is the decision to set fixed terms of three or four years for presidents while the benchmark has been set for full disclosure of the payment structure at Fifa. The executive committee will also undergo a transformation of sorts with it expected to now be replaced by a 36-member council designed to set global policies and include at least one female representative.
Before the previous election in the summer of 2015, arrests were made at the request of the United States Department of Justice. Many remain under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in co-ordination with Swiss authorities, over corruption allegedly involving more than $150m (£98m) worth of bribes dating back 24 years.
While the manifestos vary greatly on some topics, yet not so much on others, the true impact on world football will be seen in how effectively Fifa transports these reforms from press releases and into the real world.