Sebastian Coe and Sergey Bubka call the shots as Prince Ali battles KO


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The Independent Football

Intriguing elections in the world’s two biggest governing bodies this year will determine the future of football and athletics, both currently ruled by ageing, authoritarian presidents who have failed to clean up their respective organisations’ sleaze.

Time for change – though in the case of Fifa the odds seem heavily stacked against 78-year-old Sepp Blatter being dislodged from his all-powerful perch. But at least his opponents now stepping up to the ballot box in May are not going down without a fight. Jordan’s Prince Ali, Holland’s Michael van Praag, and former Portugal star Luis Figo, are credible contenders.

At this stage it would seem the only realistic hope of toppling Blatter is for two of the opposing candidates to drop out just before the election and unite behind the third, the personable Prince Ali.

Backed by the Football Association, he chose London to launch his campaign last week – an event overshadowed by the news of the horrific slaying by Isis of his fellow countryman, the captured pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh. Little wonder a sombre Prince Ali asked: “Are there any questions about football?” Here is someone with the integrity Fifa needs, but like his nation, he has a fight on his hands.

So too, does Sebastian Coe now that his only opponent for the presidency of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), former pole vaulter Sergey Bubka from Ukraine – a country also torn by strife – has formalised his decision to stand against him.

Unlike Blatter, the IAAF’s long-serving octogenarian overlord Lamine Diack has called time on a stewardship tarnished by escalating drugs scandals and his son’s suspension from the IAAF’s marketing activities for allegedly soliciting a $5m bribe in relation to Qatar’s bid for the 2017 World Championships.

Coe and Bubka have pledged war on the drugs problem and to fight moves to cut any of the 47 athletic events from the Olympic programme to make way for new sports. One threatened is the shot put. “It is one of the most traditional events.” says Coe, who continues to reject Tory pressure to run for London mayor next year, obviously finding the equally murky machinations of sports politics sufficient for his combative needs.

Heading for trouble

The British Lionhearts defeated the Algeria Desert Hawks 4-1 at London’s York Hall last Thursday but so far the World Boxing Series (WSB) has yet to grab the public despite being screened live by BT.

The boxers compete without vests or headguards in five three-minute rounds, and scoring is through the 10-point-must-system. It has already cost middleweight Anthony Fowler (pictured) – cousin of ex-England and Liverpool footballer Robbie – tipped as Britain’s best hope for boxing gold in Rio, two nasty head wounds in successive bouts. He won both but was forced to miss last week’s match.

West Ham or jambon?

The French have never really forgiven London for pipping Paris as 2012 Olympic hosts but their pique now has an ironic touch of piquancy. For a French company, Paris-based Vinci, who currently operate the Stade de France, have won a lucrative 25-year contract to manage the London 2012 Olympic Stadium and the Queen Elizabeth Park.

They will install 21,000 retractable seats to allow closer pitchside views for West Ham games while retaining a top-level stadium running track.


 a.hubbard @independent