FIFA election guide: Meet the five presidential candidates
On Friday, FIFA will elect a new president. Five candidates are vying to be the successor to Sepp Blatter, who announced last year that he would resign amid a massive corruption scandal.
In December, Blatter was banned from soccer for eight years due to a controversial payment made to Michel Platini. The ban was reduced to six years on Wednesday. Issa Hayatou has served as FIFA's interim president since October, when Blatter was forced to abdicate.
It remains to be seen whether the man who prevails in FIFA's special election will move the organization toward reform or fall back on FIFA's traditional ways. But all of the candidates are promising some sort of change in response to the corruption controversy that has seen the indictments of numerous top soccer officials.
Here's a look at FIFA election procedure and the candidates who are running for the organization's highest office.
How the FIFA election works
Each country in FIFA gets one vote, and each country's vote is weighted equally. Here is the voter breakdown, divided by continent:
The six soccer confederations are the governing bodies of six regions: CAF is Africa; UEFA is Europe; CONCACAF is Central America, North America and the Caribbean; AFC is Asia and Australia; OFC is Oceania and CONMEBOL is South America.
There are 209 FIFA members who will be casting a vote through a secret ballot on Friday. Here's how the electoral process works:
• Candidates have 15 minutes to make their case before the FIFA members cast their votes.
• On the first ballot, a candidate needs at least two-thirds of the votes (140 or more) to win. If no one gets two-thirds of the vote, a second ballot is conducted.
• On the second ballot, a candidate only needs more than half the votes (105 or more) to win.
• In an election with more than two candidates, after each round, the person with the fewest votes is eliminated until only two remain.
Meet the candidates
Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa
Sheikh Salman, a member of the Bahrain royal family, never played soccer at a high level, but he has been involved with the sport for decades. In 1998, he became vice president of the Bahrain Football Association and ascended to president just four years later. In 2013, he was elected president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
He created a rivalry with another presidential candidate, Prince Ali, when Sheikh Salman changed AFC constitution rules so Prince Ali would be removed from the FIFA executive committee.
Critical planks of Sheikh Salman's presidential manifesto include splitting FIFA into two governing bodies, one for the business side and one for the soccer side, and taking a “non-executive” approach to management.
Several human rights groups in Bahrain have spoken out against Sheikh Salman, alleging that he was in charge of a committee that identified pro-democracy soccer players, some of whom were later imprisoned and tortured.
A possible favorite to win the presidency, Infantino has been the UEFA general secretary since 2009. He's a Swiss native who holds dual citizenship with Switzerland and Italy.
He initially came to UEFA in 2000 and was named director of UEFA's Legal Affairs and Club Licensing Division in 2004. He worked closely with UEFA President Michel Platini, who was recently banned for eight years from FIFA (reduced to six years on Wednesday) following the scandal last year. He has denied accusations that he is merely a puppet of Platini.
His presidential platform proposes increasing the number of teams that participate in the World Cup from 32 to 40 teams. He also proposes creating a regional World Cup, where the tournament could be held in multiple countries in the same region. The World Cup has only been co–hosted by multiple countries once: in 2002, when it was played in both South Korea and Japan.
This South African businessman grew up fighting against the apartheid regime with the African National Congress. When he attempted to return to South Africa, he was captured and sentenced to 18 years in prison. He ended up serving 13 years in the same prison as Nelson Mandela, and when he was freed, he was elected to the ANC Executive Committee.
In 1998, he entered business, working primarily in the mining industry. Today, he hosts the South African version of The Apprentice. His soccer experience includes serving on the South Africa 2010 World Cup Organising Committee. After the World Cup, he was invited to sit on several FIFA committees.
His major presidential proposals include considering advertising on national team jerseys, lobbying for Africa to host more World Cup tournaments and emphasizing FIFA's fight against racism.
Champagne's French political career lasted from 1983 until 1998, at which point he became an international advisor to FIFA after Sepp Blatter became the organization's president. He was FIFA's deputy secretary general from 2002 to 2005 and was the Director of International Relations from 2007 to 2010. He essentially served as Blatter's right–hand man.
He left FIFA in 2010 and has not been associated with the organization since then. In his manifesto, he supports a couple unorthodox rule changes, including an “orange” card, where a player would be placed in a “sin-bin” instead of being kicked out of the game altogether.
Other major FIFA reforms that Champagne has proposed include working to close the wealth gap between the traditional powerhouses and the less popular clubs and making a “more democratic, more representative of the world and more inclusive” FIFA.
Prince Ali bin Al Hussein
Prince Ali, only 40, is the youngest of the candidates. The current prince of Jordan and a vice president of FIFA, Prince Ali is one of the most reform–minded candidates. He opposed and ran against Sepp Blatter in May 2015, but despite the support of countries like the United States he lost by a margin of 133-73 in the first round. Blatter didn't secure a victory with that vote total—it wasn't the two-thirds majority needed on the first ballot—but Prince Ali conceded before a second vote took place.
Prince Ali was born in Jordan but educated in the United States and Great Britain. He became president of the Jordan Football Association in 1999, and was elected FIFA Vice President for Asia in 2011.
He has been outspoken in his support for releasing the results of the Garcia Report, which investigated allegations of corruption during bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Michael Garcia, a U.S. attorney, submitted his 430-page investigation in September 2014, which FIFA summarized in a 42-page report that cleared Russia and Qatar of corruption. Garcia resigned after FIFA's handling of his report, calling the summary “erroneous.” Prince Ali said the resignation was “emblematic” of the issues FIFA must face, adding that he has "tremendous respect for people who take principled actions."