x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Blatter asked to step in to power struggle

South East Asian football officials have made a formal plea to Fifa president Sepp Blatter to rein in Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam.

The Fifa president Sepp Blatter, right, has been asked to arbitrate as the race between the current AFC president Mohamed bin Hammam, left, and his challenger Sheikh Salman Al Khalifa hots up.
The Fifa president Sepp Blatter, right, has been asked to arbitrate as the race between the current AFC president Mohamed bin Hammam, left, and his challenger Sheikh Salman Al Khalifa hots up.

South East Asian football officials have made a formal plea to Fifa president Sepp Blatter to rein in Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam as the battle for control of the continental body heats up. Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen, the president of the Association of South East Asian Nations Football Federation, requested the intervention of the most powerful man in world football in a letter dated March 7, a copy of which was received by PA Sport.

In the letter Tengku Ahmad requests that Blatter ensures that "the AFC, and in particular its leadership, should strictly follow the FIFA Code of Ethics which states that officials shall represent FIFA, the Confederations, associations, leagues and clubs honestly, worthily, respectably and with integrity. "I urge you to strongly reiterate this message to the AFC and in particular to its leadership."

ASEAN football leaders are incensed by Hammam's attempts to move the confederation's headquarters from its current home in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. The Football Association of Malaysia is among 10 nations who are members of the regional representative body, which also includes Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. Hammam's attempt to relocate the AFC's headquarters is one of a number of unpopular changes he has tried to make in recent years and will be on the agenda for discussion at the AFC Congress, which is to be held in Kuala Lumpur on May 8.

The Qatari could also be forced to defend his seat on Fifa's Executive Committee under a challenge from Bahrain's Sheikh Salman Al Khalifa, a move that has seen Hammam make several attempts to change the confederation's statutes to protect his increasingly embattled position. At a recent meeting of the AFC's decision-making body, Hammam tried to block Al Khalifa's challenge by insisting only members who currently hold a position on the AFC executive committee - and who had done so for a full four-year term - could stand for higher office, including positions on the Fifa executive and AFC president. He has also proposed that the sitting AFC president shall automatically earn a seat on the Fifa executive.

Should either of the motions be passed, Bahrain Football Association president Al Khalifa would be ruled out from standing against Hammam as he does not currently hold a seat on the AFC Executive Committee. The motions are due to be debated and voted on at the AFC Congress but Hammam will need 75 per cent of votes to see them carried and, given the growing amount of opposition to his rule, that appears unlikely.

The opposition to Hammam became increasingly apparent last week when representatives of 19 national associations held a press conference in Kuwait to air their views. As a result, Hammam is likely to be forced to face down Al Khalifa's challenge, which is widely seen as a referendum on the 59-year-old's six-and-a-half year tenure as AFC president. Hammam has already stated he will stand down from his position as AFC president if he does not retain his position on the Fifa Executive Committee.

* PA Sport