ZURICH (Reuters) - The head of Asian soccer, Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, says he has been “urged” to stand in the election for FIFA president but wants to gauge opinion from football federations in the region before he decides whether to run.
British media reports last week suggested Sheikh Salman had decided to run in the election but in a letter to members of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Executive Committee and the FIFA executive committee, which has been seen by Reuters, Sheikh Salman said those reports were based on a “misunderstanding”.
In the letter, dated October 18, Sheikh Salman said he had not “actively considered” running for president of world soccer’s scandal-hit governing body, adding: “More importantly, I am not a candidate today.”
“You and the AFC membership that you represent are the people that I am responsible to and whom I am elected to guide and serve. Without seeking your views, I would fail in my duties. It is largely in your hands if I accept the challenge.”
However Sheikh Salman added: “I have recently been urged by a growing number of senior football administrators, FIFA members and personalities of public life to become a candidate now that UEFA president Michel Platini faces obstacles on his path to the FIFA presidency.”
Sheikh Salman had initially backed Frenchman Platini to replace outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter. But Platini’s troubles, which originated with a 2011 payment of two million Swiss francs from FIFA for work done nine years earlier, have dramatically changed the electoral landscape.
Earlier this month both Blatter and Platini were handed a 90-day provisional ban from football by FIFA’s Ethics Committee – a decision which has quickly led to support for the Frenchman’s candidacy dissipating. Both men deny any wrongdoing.
The deadline for nominations for the FIFA vote is Oct. 26 and Sheikh Salman asked for feedback by Tuesday.
“Only after reviewing your comments and taking advice from close friends, advisers and after discussing all options with the people most important to me, my family, will I even consider such a major step,” he added.
Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein has already filed his nomination papers for the vote to replace Blatter. Former Trinidad and Tobago midfielder David Nakhid has also submitted the required five nominations from national associations.
Sheikh Salman promised he would not use any AFC resources in the event of any bid for the FIFA presidency.
FIFA has been rocked by the U.S Department of Justice’s decision on May 27 to indict 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives in a corruption investigation. Swiss authorities are also investigating FIFA.
Blatter’s payment to Platini is part of a Swiss criminal investigation into the 79-year-old.
FIFA confirmed on Tuesday after a meeting of its executive committee that its presidential election would go ahead as planned on February 26.
Editing by Gareth Jones