REUTERS - Thailand risks facing FIFA sanctions if polls to elect a soccer association (FAT) president are held before the implementation of electoral reforms backed by the world governing body, local media reported on Friday.
FIFA executive committee member and FAT chief Worawi Makudi has dismissed the demands of leading Thai sports administrators to hold the election first and has set an August 8 date for further discussions over proposed changes.
Worawi's term as FAT president ended on June 16 and critics said that the reforms, which include slashing the number of eligible voters by more than half to 72, was a ploy by Worawi to retain his seat amid growing unpopularity.
Worawi has set September 23 as the new election date, which has angered the majority of member clubs with 108 of the 179 signing a petition demanding the election takes place on July 23 or they will hold it themselves in early August.
The 61-year-old Worawi, who lost to Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa in the Asian Football Confederation presidential elections in May, said he was simply following FIFA guidelines.
The Bangkok Post reported that FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke had warned the FAT against going ahead with any such plan, strengthening Worawi's stand.
"We would like to remind you once again that the FAT is required to comply with the statutes, regulations, directives and decisions of FIFA bodies at all times," the report quoted the letter as saying.
"By holding elections prior to the revised FAT statutes being adopted, the FAT would be in violation of the decision of the FIFA Associations Committee.
"Accordingly, we would like to inform you that should the FAT attempt to convene an extraordinary congress for election purposes prior to the adoption of the revised FAT statutes, the matter will be referred to the appropriate FIFA body to take appropriate measures against the FAT including the non-recognition of the election and/or immediate and indefinite suspension."
Soccer fan Pinit Ngarmpring and former national team manager Virach Charnpanich are the candidates running against Worawi for the top soccer post in the country. (Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by John O'Brien)
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