KUALA LUMPUR // Mohamed Bin Hammam, the Asian football chief, confirmed yesterday he will run for the Fifa presidency, posing the first challenge to Sepp Blatter in nearly a decade.
Bin Hammam predicted he has a 50-50 chance of winning.
He ended months of speculation about his decision during a news conference streamed online live from the Asian Football Confederation's headquarters in Malaysia.
The Qatari's announcement met an April 1 deadline to declare himself a candidate against his former ally as he seeks to end Blatter's 13-year reign as the man running the world's biggest sport.
"Today after careful study, consultation and consideration, armed with my love and passion for football, believing that our game is about fair competition, I have decided to contest," he said.
Bin Hammam must now find a majority of Fifa's 208 members sufficiently unhappy with Blatter's reign or tempted by what new leadership could offer.
He needs to be nominated by one of Fifa's national federations, which will vote on June 1 at their congress in Zurich. Blatter, 75, has been nominated by Somalia.
Bin Hammam acknowledged Blatter's contributions yesterday, but said it's time for "new faces, new blood".
"There is a time limit for everyone," he said. "I hope that Asia is going to be united behind me, but also the other confederations where I enjoy a lot of friendship and relationships, I hope also those people are going to support me."
In a 17-minute speech to announce his challenge, Bin Hammam offered to broaden Fifa's decision-making power and spread its wealth. He proposed creating a new Fifa board to replace the existing executive committee, which some regard as concentrating power in too few hands.
Bin Hammam said the Fifa president should be chairman of a 41-member board, instead of 24.
Under the AFC chief's plan, the European body Uefa will have 12 members, up from eight, the African body CAF and Asia would both be doubled to eight, while the Concacaf group of North, Central America and Caribbean would be doubled to six. Conmebol, representing South America, should have four, up from three, and Oceania up from one to two.
He described Fifa as being too bureaucratic and centralised, questioning its efficiency in technical and legal areas.
He hopes to set up a new transparency committee, have fair distribution of World Cup revenues and annual grants to Fifa's members doubled to US$500,000 (Dh1.836 million). The upper limit for development projects, which provide valuable cash support to smaller nations, should be doubled to $1m, he said.
Bin Hammam, 61, has long held ambitions to lead football's international governing body, which has had just eight presidents in its 111-year history. All were European, bar the long-serving Brazilian Joao Havelange, Blatter's predecessor.
A wealthy businessman with construction interests, Bin Hammam held several sports leadership positions in Qatar before Asia elected him to Fifa's executive committee in 1996.
Blatter has not been challenged since 2002 when he defeated the African confederation president Issa Hayatou by 139 votes to 56.