Prince Ali of Jordan offers welcome alternative to toxic Sepp Blatter

Prince Ali is a doer, not a talker like Blatter

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The Independent Online

The most obvious way in which Prince Ali bin-Al Hussein of Jordan –who has announced he will run for the presidency of Fifa – differs from Sepp Blatter, the man he seeks to usurp as football’s overlord, is that he is a doer, not a talker.

While Blatter is prone to pontifications on his various “missions” and “quests” , the son of the late King of Jordan likes to get on and do.

Admittedly, the life of an Arabian prince is not short of opportunities to make things happen, but not all people in such positions can demonstrate a track record for delivering change.

The prince was made head of his country’s football association at the age of 24, which seems a little absurd, even when you remember that a prince is the president of the English one too.

But more recently (he is now 39) he has set up the West Asian Football Federation, an association for the 13 football-playing countries in the region, from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the UAE and, yes, Qatar.

His various public proclamations of his commitment to reform in football governance are undoubtedly genuine.

“The world game deserves a world-class governing body – an international federation that is a service organisation and a model of ethics, transparency and good governance,” he announced on declaring his intention.

Viewed from a distance, there might be some irony in the ever-toxifying legacy of the 2010 Qatar decision summoning a footballing saviour in the form of another Middle Eastern prince, who owes his pre-eminent good fortune in the world not to anything that looks even remotely like democracy, fairness or social justice, but to his directly traceable lineage to the prophet Mohammed.

There will be those that ask what he offers apart from not being Blatter. His four-year term on Fifa’s Executive Committee expires in May (he was elected after the infamous Qatar and Russia vote). He may feel he has nothing to lose.

Certainly, he is a member of a smallish reformist modernising clique among the 25 members of the Executive Committee, and among that group he has long been among the first to speak not just to his colleagues about Fifa’s many woes, but publicly too.

The commonly held view is that Blatter, should he stand (he has declared his intention to, but his official papers are not thought to have been received, as they must be by the end of January), cannot be defeated, so meticulous has been his grooming of football’s burgeoning blazerati across Africa and the Americas – indeed everywhere outside Europe.

But the mere fact of the Prince standing against him increases the pressure on, and scrutiny of, Blatter. It is a significant step towards a tipping point that must exist, however hard it might be to reach.

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CAN SEPP BE OUSTED? HOW FIFA VOTES WORK

The vote in May to elect a new Fifa president is a secret ballot, with each of Fifa's 209 member countries having one vote each. Four years ago, when Sepp Blatter was the only candidate, he received 186 of the then 203 votes – 17 countries, including England and Scotland, abstained.

Even with another presidential challenger, in the form of the French former diplomat Jérôme Champagne, Prince Ali can expect wide support from Europe. But that is only a small piece of the pie. Less developed corners of the world have done well out of “development initiatives” set up on Blatter’s watch.

For the Prince to win, huge numbers of African, Latin American, Asian and Caribbean associations would have to renege on their public pledges of support for Blatter. It could happen, but it probably won’t.

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