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.
Key players in the Qatar World Cup bid controversy
Key players in the Qatar World Cup bid controversy
1/5 Mohammed bin Hammam
The Qatari was the Asian Football Confederation president at the time of the 2010 vote. The Sunday Times alleged that documents showed he made payments to officials as part of a campaign to win support for the 2022 World Cup bid. He insisted he had no “official or unofficial” role with the bid. Fifa imposed a second life ban on him in December 2012, after his decision to quit all his football roles. This came after the Fifa ethics committee investigation found him guilty of “repeated violations” of the ethics code on conflicts of interest, while he was AFC president and while a member of the Fifa Exco between 2008-2011.
2/5 Jack Warner
The Trinidad & Tobago politician was forced to resign as a Fifa vice-president in 2011, after he and Bin Hammam were alleged to have paid bribes of £600,000 to Caribbean associations. He is also alleged to have helped Bin Hammam bribe Caribbean officials in return for support in his aim to oust Sepp Blatter.
3/5 Sepp Blatter
The long-standing Fifa president oversaw the bidding process to award Qatar the World Cup. Has since admitted awarding Qatar the cup was “a mistake”. He set up an executive committee task force to look into the World Cup in Qatar being moved to the winter because of the extreme summer temperature.
4/5 Lord Triesman
Former FA chairman. Alleged that, in exchange for voting for England to host the World Cup, Warner asked for money to build an education centre in Trinidad and to buy World Cup television rights for Haiti, and that Paraguay’s Nicolas Leoz asked for an honorary knighthood in exchange for their votes.
5/5 Michael Garcia
Former New York district attorney Michael Garcia was named Fifa’s chief independent ethics investigator. He spent a year investigating the organisation, and delivered a 350-page report on the 2018 and 2022 bidding processes in September. Called for greater transparency and culture change in Fifa.
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.
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.Reuse content