David Bernstein, chairman of the Football Association, last night described his body's decision to call for a postponement of today's Fifa presidential election as a "matter of principle", but acknowledged that it is almost certain not to bar Sepp Blatter from winning a fourth term in office.
The FA was joined by Scotland, which asked for a "three- to six-month postponement", and spent last night canvassing for one more association to enable them to ask Fifa's Congress to amend the agenda. Under Fifa regulations the proposing association needs the support of two others to force a vote.
The FA was in discussion with the other home nations, and there were suggestions some African countries may prove sympathetic to England's cause. But it remains an all but hopeless one. To delay the election needs the support of 75 per cent of the members – more than 150 of the 208 voters.
Bernstein said: "To get 150-odd votes clearly would be extremely difficult from a standing start. There was actually a matter of principle involved. We feel that the situation Fifa has got itself into is in many ways unacceptable. My board decided to abstain from the election when there were two candidates standing; now there is only one and given all the issues that have emerged since we did so, it would have been inconsistent to have supported a one-horse-race candidate.
"I don't think it is in the interests of anybody, nor in the interests of Mr Blatter. I would have thought if he's going to continue he should want to continue having won a proper election with opposition and then go forward with a full mandate. If he goes forward in this situation, with a coronation rather than an election, I don't think that does anybody any good."
Prince William, who is the FA's president, backed the call to postpone the election, a spokesperson saying he was "fully behind" the move.
The SFA followed England's lead, although there were no discussions
between the bodies. Stewart Regan, SFA chief executive, said: "Doing nothing is not a viable option. If we do nothing, we can see the election going ahead and Sepp Blatter being appointed for a period of four years."
The election is the 14th item on today's agenda; the agenda itself, the moment Bernstein will have to act, is the fourth. The congress begins at 9.30am with the election expected around 3pm. Chuck Blazer, the New Yorker who reported the allegations of corruption against Jack Warner and Mohamed Bin Hammam that sparked the crisis of the past week, dismissed the FA's move. Blazer said: "Unfortunately with them, everything is too little too late. The FA needs to learn to be ahead of the curve and not behind the game."
Bernstein, though, said: "It's the right thing to do. Sometimes you have to take a jump even if you aren't sure how solid the ground is beneath you."
Blazer himself was late last night reported to be facing a battle to hold on to his job as Concacaf general secretary. Lisle Austin, who is standing in for Warner as Concacaf president, attempted to "terminate" the American's role with the confederation.
The FA reached its decision to protest only on Monday night as a consequence of the events of recent days. These have seen the suspension of Bin Hammam and Warner, both vice-presidents; Jérôme Valcke, Fifa's general secretary, remains in his post having explained away a leaked email in which he wrote that Qatar had "bought" the 2022 World Cup; and Blatter's brazen dismissal of criticisms of the organisation at a press conference on Monday evening.
Last night Uefa was forced to distance itself from reports that it was pushing for Blatter to serve only two years rather than four before stepping aside, while Bin Hamman urged Asian members not to walk out in protest.
Bernstein denied his actions would leave the FA isolated in world football. He said: "On an issue of this import we have taken the lead and I don't think we are going to lose out over this. I don't think we are going to be isolated either and nor should we be. This is meant to be a democratic organisation – one's entitled to a minority view, even a singular view."