The five candidates vying for the votes of the 209 national football associations in the contest due to take place on February 26 in Zurich are surely the most impressively named candidates for any election ever: Gianni Infantino, Jerome Champagne, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa and Tokyo Sexwale.
On this page we briefly evaluate their campaigns, chances of success and public pledges of support. A candidate needs a two third majority of voters to win in the first round or a simple majority in subsequent rounds.
The electorate is made up of the 209 Football Federations (46 from Asia, 54 from Africa, 35 from CONCACAF, 10 from CONMEBOL, 11 from Oceania and 53 from Europe).
The latest odds can be found on a variety of football betting sites but at the time of writing Sheikh Salman is still favourite with the bookies, although Gianni Infantino is racking up the public endorsements.
The Swiss-Italian 45-year old general secretary of UEFA joined the governing body of European football in 2000 as a lawyer.
Infantino’s campaign platform has three main themes: football development; democracy and participation; and reforms and good governance. He promises to more than double development grants to each member nation and to monitor what this money is spent on, which will win him some votes, but may lose a few as well. He is in favour of expanding the World Cup to 40 teams and supports the idea of FIFA’s premier competition being hosted in multiple countries.
Infantino has a strong head start in public pledges of support with 68 to date including:
Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua, Grenada, Suriname, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, San Marino, Uruguay and Venezuela.
A consultant in international football, Jerome Champagne worked for Fifa for 11 years as an executive and an adviser to Sepp Blatter, before leaving in 2010.
Champagne is standing on a platform of rebalancing the game and correcting inequalities and if elected would institute the most radical changes to FIFA of any of the candidates. He would also re-examine the decision to hold the Qatar World Cup in the winter.
Photos taken at Play the Game 2011 by conference photographer Tine Harden.
Despite many good ideas it is unlikely the corks will be popping for him on February 26th, not least as the electorate is largely made up of football insiders happy with status quo.
Jerome Champagne has the public support of the Palestine FA and a great number of people in football who don’t have a vote in the election including the great Pele.
Prince Ali bin al-Hussein
Prince Ali is the President of the Jordan Football Association, founder and president of the West Asian Football Federation and a 43rd generation direct descendant of the prophet Muhammad.
The 40-year-old Sandhurst-educated Jordanian royal and former FIFA vice president lost the 2015 FIFA Presidency election with 73 votes to Blatter’s 133 but is back for another go.
Prince Ali’s campaign manifesto is based on transparency, grassroots development and upgrading the role of member associations (the presidential electorate) whilst making the role of FIFA President more of a royal one, putting in place a strong Chief Executive.
Prince Ali has won a public pledges of support from Egypt, Iraq and Liberia.
Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa
Sheikh Salman states in his manifesto that “Starting as a player, I then worked my way up the ranks of the Bahrain Football Association to become President.”
A member of Bahrain’s ruling al-Khalifa family, the 50 years old Sheikh is currently head of the Asian Football Confederation.
Sheikh Salman denies reports of complicity in the crackdown on players during Bahrain democracy protests and claims a Bahrain News Agency report that he headed a committee tasked with identifying players who participated in the demonstrations is not true and the committee never met.
If elected, Sheikh Salman will function as a non-executive president, leaving the daily business of running the organisation to other people who will be fully accountable if anything goes wrong.
Although Sheikh Salman believes in “using platforms such as social media even more proactively to constantly feel football’s pulse and stay closer to the football community” he doesn’t have a Twitter account, probably well aware of the kind of feedback he would get from human rights activists.
Sheikh Salman has the support of the AFC and CAF big wigs so is one of the leading contenders.
The 62-year old Sexwale was imprisoned with Nelson Mandela and subsequently made his fortune as a mining magnate in post-apartheid South Africa. He is a former South African government minister and a current member of Fifa’s anti-discrimination task force.
Sexwale’s campaign has been criticised as low-key and he has expressed a desire to see the next FIFA president being either an African (himself) or Asian (Prince Ali or Sheikh Salman). Despite having failed to receive support from South Africa or the Confederation of African Football he has pledged to continue the (unwinnable) fight.
(Article updated 7 February Sexwale pledges to continue, 24 February with additional public pledges)