Fifa: The headhunt is on ahead of elections

s: International law specialist Dan Seddon looks at the challenges ahead as Fifa scrambles to put together a new election to choose a successor to Gianni Infantino.

For President Sepp Blatter, losing his grip on power may have been the easiest step of a week that seems to have turned life into a slow dance at a nightclub with teenagers.

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He is one of a number of senior Fifa officials arrested in Zurich last December. Others, including Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii, were also indicted on corruption charges. On Tuesday, some of those people were among five candidates vying to replace Sepp Blatter at the head of Fifa. These people included Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, Gianni Infantino’s old friend and ally from his days at Uefa; Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, who had run against Blatter for the presidency in 2015; Domenico Scala, a former top official at Fifa and an independent committee member in charge of overseeing all of its decisions; and Manuel Pellegrini, of Manchester City and current boss of Thailand’s FC Bangkok.

This week saw the latest round of revelations from the corruption investigations. Last Thursday saw former Fifa deputy general secretary Jérôme Valcke, already convicted on corruption charges, banned for eight years, from all football-related activities. Just two days later Swiss police raided a meeting of international officials and discovered evidence that bribes were being paid to win votes ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino faces the prospect of defeat in the election to succeed Sepp Blatter

Officials in Qatar deny claims the allegations are “manipulated”. But questions remain over the conduct of Qatar’s president, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, and over whether there is any way to make the process of choosing the hosts for the tournaments in 2026 and 2030 transparent enough to merit more than a conditional endorsement from FIFA.

The rush to produce fresh candidates, in an election called after the 14 suspects in the FBI case pleaded guilty, has left many wondering who will fill Blatter’s shoes. Or who could ever fill them.

And there will be a sense of being back at square one next week.

As soon as the probable candidates were set, new details of wrongdoing came to light. It has turned out that Nicolas Leoz, a 91-year-old former South American football confederation president, was still in charge when he was being investigated by the Swiss attorney general’s office. The charges have been dropped. And an investigation has been launched into an offer of loans from a South African member of the Fifa ExCo to a senior Fifa official. That official, Jacques Anouma, was not charged, and denies any wrongdoing. But he has quit Fifa.

The harsh reality of the situation cannot escape those who have been ousted by the new rulers. A certain disgraced member of the ExCo told me he feels as if he has been “kidnapped” by the swift and authoritative actions taken by the world governing body. An ExCo member who in the past has sounded out his colleagues about a run for the top job said he feels “not a little empty” after seeing such people go through the process.

If the new, young FIFA president can clean up the system, it may yet be a refreshing sign after a week which sharply raises the stakes for the election.

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