Fifa corruption scandal: Leadership contender Prince Ali says scandals have 'decimated' governing body

Calls are growing for a football outsider to take control

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The Independent Online

Fifa has been “shaken to its very core” by scandals that have “decimated our governing body”, presidency contender Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan has said. 

His comments, prompted by the criminal investigation into a £1.3m payment to Michel Platini allegedly authorised by Sepp Blatter, seemed designed to present the Jordanian royal as an anti-corruption candidate for football’s top job. But calls are growing for a football outsider – suggestions have included former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan or former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark – to take control.

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Prince Ali bin al-Hussein is a contender for the FIFA presidency (Getty)

Swiss authorities began a criminal investigation into Mr Blatter’s suspected payment of £1.3m to Mr Platini in 2011 for work the Frenchman is said to have carried out between 1999 and 2002. 

It was unclear why the payment was made so late, but this is likely to have been a matter for discussion when Mr Platini was questioned as a witness. Both men have denied any wrongdoing over the payment.

Campaigners said it was time an “eminent person” from outside sport took the helm at football’s world governing body, because even executives who had not done anything wrong were tainted by their lack of action.

Prince Ali, who stood unsuccessfully against Mr Blatter earlier this year before a US investigation into an alleged £100m bribery and racketeering conspiracy involving Fifa officials prompted the Swiss official to announce that he would stand down, said: “The need for new leadership that can restore the credibility of Fifa has never been more apparent. 

“We have to accept that changing Fifa is not a matter of choice; it has already changed, shaken to its very core by the scandals that have decimated our governing body and cast a cloud over the organisation.” He said Mr Blatter’s decision to quit had started “the process of change”.

“We have an opportunity in February to carry that momentum forward. We must now come together and work to restore Fifa’s credibility and reputation by bringing about the change that is so clearly needed,” Prince Ali said. “I have heard from many member associations over the last 24 hours, and what I have heard gives me confidence that, working together, we can emerge stronger.”

However a former Australian football official, Bonita Mersiades, of the New Fifa Now campaign – a group co-founded by Conservative MP Damian Collins – said that it was time to bring in people from outside the world of sport to run Fifa.

“I think more and more people are coming to the realisation every day that the only way forward … is for independent reform to happen,” she said. “We all love football, that’s why we’re advocating for reform – independent reform by an eminent person who’s not eminent in sport.

“There’s so much of a job-for-life type attitude [in sport administration] and this is part of the problem Fifa has had – they became inured to what’s right and what’s wrong.”

She said Prince Ali “only started to make a noise about this when it came up in presidential election contexts”. “That’s not to say he’s not genuine. But where was he when all of these issues were going on?”

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