Wed, Mar 25, 2015 - Page 19 News List

Under-fire Blatter due to address UEFA congress

AFP, VIENNA

FIFA president Sepp Blatter gestures as he addresses a news conference after a meeting of the FIFA executive committee in Zurich, Switzerland, on Friday.

Photo: Reuters

FIFA president Sepp Blatter was due to make a rare pitch for re-election votes yesterday at a congress where his adversary, Michel Platini, will secure unopposed a third straight term as head of European soccer.

The 79-year-old Blatter is refusing to address UEFA’s congress with his three rivals for the leadership of soccer’s world governing body.

However, Blatter was due to speak to the European meeting at the start of the day in his role as FIFA president.

His election opponents, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, a FIFA vice president, Dutch federation head Michael van Praag and former Portugal star Luis Figo, have all been in Vienna campaigning for votes for FIFA’s congress on May 29.

Blatter insists he is not campaigning and that he is standing for a fifth four-year term based on his 17 years already spent running world soccer.

The Swiss official, whose fourth term has been overshadowed by controversy over the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, is the favorite to win, but he has never had to face such opposition to be re-elected. He is also remembered for having told UEFA’s 2011 congress that he would not stand again this year.

Al Hussein has condemned what he calls the “culture of intimidation” under Blatter.

Figo said on Monday that a Blatter win “is going to be like losing four years of trying to modernize, trying to have more transparency, because things will continue the same.”

Van Praag said he would embark on cost-cutting at FIFA if elected.

He attacked the handing over of the North American television rights for the 2026 World Cup to the Fox channel without a tender as “very strange.”

UEFA president Platini considered running against Blatter and is calling for him to stand down, but the 59-year-old, who won the 1984 European Championship with France, will be in the spotlight for securing a third straight term as president of the European body.

Blatter may be jealous as no one from the 54 European national federations has dared challenge his rival leader.

“I feel very happy [at UEFA]. Perhaps it isn’t my time at the moment to go to FIFA. We will see one day if I will go,” Platini said last week.

In eight years leading UEFA, Platini has reinforced the standing of the Champions League, now one of the world’s most valuable sports brands.

UEFA says it will make more than US$2.4 billion a season from next year to 2018.

He has also attacked profligate clubs, insisting that they cannot spend more than they earn under UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules. Offenders face tough sanctions, as Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have already discovered.

The European Championships are also being reformed.

Euro 2020 is to be played in 13 cities in 13 different nations. A Nations League, which offers qualification for the European Championships, will from 2018 replace most of the friendlies played by European nations, which get little attention.

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