LONDON – The campaign to succeed Sepp Blatter as FIFA chief turned bitter on Friday when a presidential candidate asked for an investigation into whether his main rival is trying to break election rules.
Prince Ali bin al-Hussein accused Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al Khalifa of a “blatant attempt to engineer a bloc vote” by signing a pact between the Asian Football Confederation he heads and its counterpart in Africa.
With 54 voters, Africa has the biggest say in the Feb. 26 presidential vote by FIFA’s 209 federations. The four-year accord is between the AFC and the Confederation of African Football headed by Issa Hayatou, who is also acting FIFA president following Blatter’s ban.
It will be up to FIFA election watchdog Domenico Scala, who chairs the audit and compliance committee, plus the electoral committee, to decide whether there is anything wrong with the Africa-Asia deal being announced six weeks before the vote.
“I am concerned that there has been an attempt to breach electoral rules in the FIFA presidential election,” Prince Ali, who is also Jordanian Football Association president, said in a statement. “I have written to the FIFA ad-hoc electoral committee informing them of my concerns and asking them to examine the matter.”
The escalating public dispute between the presidential rivals — both members of Middle East royal families — is damaging for FIFA as it tries to make a fresh start after bribery and fraud scandals.