The easy part of the impending Fifa presidential election is the actual election process itself. There is a total number of 209 votes available, split up between the various football organisations that comprise Fifa, as follows.
Confederation of African Football – CAF 54 votes
UEFA – Europe 53 votes
Asian Football Confederation – Asia 46 votes
CONCACAF – North and Central America 35 votes
OFC – Oceania Football Confederation 11 votes
CONMEBOL – South America 10 votes
If any candidate polls two thirds of that total, 139, in the first vote they will assume the presidency. If not a second ballot would take place in which the person who manages 105 or more votes will take up the presidency.
There was uncertainty as to whether or not the election, due to take place on 26th February 2016 in light of the investigation into Sepp Blatter and a £1.3 million payment to Michel Platini, would actually go ahead. However the Fifa executive committee, at an emergency meeting, confirmed on 20th October 2015 that the election will go ahead as ordained.
There are seven candidates who have received the necessary letters of support from five federations. There were eight but ex Trinidadian football David Nakhid had to withdraw as he only managed to table the backing of four associations.
I hesitate in labelling the remaining candidates as the Magnificent Seven, mainly because there are so many individual clouds hanging over some of them not to mention the fact that three of the candidates were, shall we be kind, late entries into the field.
In no particular order the aspirants to world football`s most powerful position are.
Michel Platini is currently suspended by Fifa while they investigate the £1.3 million payment he received from Sepp Blatter 13 years ago. The current president of Uefa was seen as a `shoe-in` replacement for Blatter as Fifa president almost rendering any election a foregone conclusion. Unfortunately one of the most decorated footballers in European history, three times European Footballer of the Year, has blotted his copy book and his bid for the presidency with the corruption allegations which he vehemently denies. Although he didn`t help his credibility by admitting there was no written record regarding the payment.
Despite his 90 day suspension by the very organisation he has ambitions to head Platini refused to withdraw his candidacy from the impending presidential election. He appealed the ban and at the time of writing the result of that appeal, to the Fifa Appeals Committee, is pending. If the suspension is lifted before the February election, and it is due to end anyway in the last week of January, he may still be able to stand for election. The major question of course is one of credibility especially in light of universal calls for a new broom and transparency. That doubt is a major obstacle to Michel Platini leading the world football governing body, despite his playing CV and by far more years in the game, 43 , than any other candidate.
Gianni Infantino has been Uefa general secretary since 2009 and is a qualified lawyer. The governing body of European football has been quite clever, or sneaky, depending on perception, in putting forward a second candidate from the same organisation, and he was one of the three latecomers only declaring his candidacy on deadline day. There is considerable credence to a very strong feeling within the game that should Platini be cleared by Fifa then Infantino will withdraw his candidacy. If not then Uefa will have a very strong candidate for Fifa`s top job and at the time of writing he was regarded as 6/1 second favourite to succeed Sepp Blatter.
Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa, the 49 year old president of the Asian Football Confederation, only launched himself into the presidential race 24 hours before the deadline. That didn`t stop him being nominated at 3/1 by the bookies to win. Maybe the motivation for such a late move was to minimise the furore his bid aroused from human rights critics of his alleged involvement in human rights abuse back home in Bahrain. Accusations which he strenuously denied but once again, as with Platini, mud sticks.
Musa Biliti, 48, is the president of the Liberian Football Association. He will campaign with the stigma of a six month ban from all football activity in 2013, by the African Football Confederation, still fresh despite appearing to have mended a few of the damaged relations from that time. He claims to have the support of more than two dozen African football associations but must still be considered an outsider. The boss of the biggest petroleum importer in Liberia he has only been in the game for five years so, as well as declaring his candidacy on deadline day, he must be considered a late arrival to the Fifa party.
Tokyo Sexhale, at 62, is the oldest of the seven presidential candidates. A former South African government minister the billionaire mining tycoon has come a long way since he was a contemporary of Nelson Mandela, spending 13 years on Robben Island during the Apartheid period. He has only been a `player` in the game for seven years but is a powerful member of the Fifa anti-discrimination task force.
Sexhale was a member of the organising committee for the 2010 World Cup which, if in these days of higher scrutiny of anything at high level football administration, not to mention calls for greater transparency, is not without its own speculation of wrongdoing.
Prince Ali bin al-Hussein at 39 is the youngest of the presidential aspirants. President of the Jordan FA the former Fifa vice president went toe-to-toe with Sepp Blatter as recently as May 2015 and in the first round of voting, before he withdrew, he polled 73 votes to Blatter`s 133. Unfortunately despite having 16 years of experience in football Prince Ali finds himself with a weaker power base than five months ago that has little or no European backing and very few votes within Asia.
Jerome Champagne, 57, has a lot going for him and could well be the candidate who comes in on the rails in the final furlong. A former Fifa executive the former French diplomat has been in football for 17 years, eleven of them as an executive. During that time he worked as an advisor to Sepp Blatter before Herr Blatter removed him, in 2010, fearing he harboured ambitions to replace the Austrian. There is no doubt support for the ex diplomat, who knows much about the inner workings within the secretive world that is Fifa, has grown in the very recent past. He makes no secret, which is refreshing, of desiring more places on the Fifa executive committee for Asian and African countries. Champagne has also declared that if he becomes president Fifa will be more receptive to the 209 member nations across the globe.
So now it comes down to 209 football associations across the globe to decide who will take world football beyond 2016. Between now and next February there are nearly four months for candidates to convince enough of those national associations they are the right person for the job. A cynic might add that is the same amount of time for those who have dug up the mud that has tainted so many associated with Fifa to dig up more, on more.