Sepp Blatter, the President of FIFA, is the most powerful man in the footballing world. Blatter, who is now 75, has been in charge of the game’s governing body since June 1998.
But he will face his first challenge since 2002 when Mohamed Bin Hammam, President of the Asian Football Confederation, stands against him in May.
When he announced his candidacy, Bin Hammam vowed to increase the world governing body’s decision making power and to spread its wealth.
The Qatari said that much of FIFA’s administration was too bureaucratic and promised to decentralise if voted in, adding that he would also expand the Executive Committee to give more people a greater say in decision making.
Bin Hammam made clear he would support the introduction of goal-line technology if his bid for the top job was successful and said he would be in favour of introducing two more officials behind the goals, as has been trialled in European matches.
Bin Hammam also believes that FIFA needs to be more transparent following allegations of corruption in the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar. Two executive committee members were suspended, while four other officials were sanctioned.
“It’s reasonable and logical to vote openly – it happens in other organisations, why shouldn’t it happen in FIFA?” he asked.
It is difficult to tell how much chance Bin Hammam has of succeeding in the election. The votes will come from the various footballing bodies that make up FIFA – and among many there is a desire for change.
But Blatter is a shrewd political operator. He worked for FIFA for over 20 years before becoming its President and is adept at getting his own way – although there have long been allegations that he uses bribery and corruption. He is seeking one last four year term in charge and says he would then retire.
Any moves towards making the administration of football more transparent are to be welcomed, at whatever level they take place.
A change at the very top may just be the catalyst for action further down the structures of football. We all know where more transparency is needed, don’t we?