March 23, 2015

VIENNA (AP) FIFA extending Fox's World Cup broadcast rights to 2026 was ''very strange,'' according to presidential candidate Michael van Praag.

In a surprise move seen as heading off possible legal action for changing the 2022 tournament dates in Qatar, FIFA awarded Fox the contract last month without inviting other American broadcasters to bid.

''That is not something I would do,'' Van Praag, a businessman and president of the Netherlands football federation, told reporters Monday. ''In 2015, that is not the way we work anymore.''

Van Praag criticized ''all the secrecy'' surrounding FIFA and pledged greater transparency in decision-making if he is elected president.

He is among three opponents of longtime FIFA President Sepp Blatter in the May 29 poll of the governing body's 209 member federations.

The Fox deal extended its 2018 and 2022 rights, which cost $425 million more than three years ago when FIFA planned a traditional June-July tournament in Qatar.

Switching to play in November-December provokes a clash with the NFL and college football seasons.

Now, Fox holds the rights for an undisclosed sum in 2026 when the United States is an expected bidder to host.

FIFA ''had done what we had to do in order to protect FIFA and to protect the organization of the World Cup,'' secretary general Jerome Valcke acknowledged last month.

It is unclear if the renewed deal requires Fox to pay extra for a U.S.-hosted World Cup.

The 67-year-old former Ajax president has promised to serve a single presidential term to ''normalize'' FIFA as an institution then step aside.

''My business experience tells me this could be done in four years,'' Van Praag said.

The UEFA executive committee member met with media ahead of the European football body's annual meeting Tuesday.

Blatter has refused UEFA's invitation to make a campaign speech alongside his rivals, which also include FIFA vice president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan and former Portugal great Luis Figo.

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