January 28, 2015

AMSTERDAM (AP) Dutch football association chief Michael van Praag says he wants to clean up FIFA's sullied image and expand the World Cup if he succeeds Sepp Blatter as president.

FIFA under Blatter's stewardship, ''is doing badly and has lost all credibility,'' the 67-year-old administrator said at Amsterdam's Olympic Stadium on Wednesday.

''FIFA is constantly under suspicion. Of conflicts of interest, of nepotism, of corruption.''

Van Praag offered an olive branch to Blatter - who is widely expected to win a fifth term in the May 29 ballot - saying he would be happy to have him as an adviser, and head of a ''Sepp Blatter Foundation'' to help underprivileged children.

He said Blatter has already told him he doesn't want to take up the offer, but ''it still stands.''

The former Ajax chairman stressed his key platform will be reforming FIFA, cutting ties with the Blatter era.

''I have nothing against Mr. Blatter. In fact, I like him a lot as a person,'' Van Praag said. ''However, someone who has led an organization for so many years and who has become the personification of its poor image, can no longer be the face of a modernization operation or of a `new FIFA.'''

The Dutchman who has led his national federation since 2008 and was at the helm of Ajax in 1995 when the team won the Champions League, said he would begin campaigning in earnest by approaching key figures in football and telling them he wants to serve only one four-year term in office before handing the reins to a ''new generation'' of leaders.

One of the new generation threw his hat into the ring shortly before Van Praag's news conference, Portugal great Luis Figo. The Dutchman said he does not know Figo but welcomed him to the race to dethrone Blatter.

Van Praag said he submitted his candidacy to FIFA this week with backing from five federations: Belgium, Sweden, Scotland, Romania and the Faroe Islands, as well as the Netherlands.

He added that other European federations support him, but he did not name them. He will have to convince Blatter's traditional powerbase outside of Europe to accept his candidacy.

Van Praag attempted to play down Blatter's front-runner position, likening himself to one of the giant-killing lower-tier clubs that defeated English powers including Chelsea and Manchester City in the FA Cup last weekend.

He also said combatting match-fixing would be another priority, and said FIFA should be far more transparent, including publishing its president's salary package.

In a move that could woo national federations outside Europe, Van Praag said the World Cup, ''should be extended to include proportionally more countries outside Europe,'' because playing in the tournament ''demonstrably accelerates the development and popularity of football in the participating countries.''

And the huge amounts of money FIFA generates should be better spent, he said.

''FIFA has to go back to basics,'' Van Praag said. ''As FIFA president, I believe that as much money as possible should be made available for football in its purest form, and as little as possible for side issues.''

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