MP says FA should abstain in Fifa election

By Matt SlaterBBC sports news reporter
Bin Hammam and Blatter
Bin Hammam and Blatter have both been hit by corruption allegations

The Football Association has "no alternative" but to abstain from next month's Fifa presidential election, according to MP Damian Collins.

The FA's board meets on Thursday to discuss the candidacies of incumbent Sepp Blatter and Mohamed Bin Hammam, both hit by corruption allegations.

Collins sits on the panel of MPs that last week heard testimony about alleged bribes to win World Cup bids.

"I can't see how the FA can have confidence in either man," he said.

"I have never believed that abstaining is particularly courageous but I don't think the FA has an alternative, unless we hear more from one of the candidates about what they intend to do.

"Perhaps we should also look at whether the FA should have considered another candidate who could have been at the vanguard of this movement to reform Fifa in this vote or the next."

The vote to decide the next president of Fifa - with Blatter seeking a fourth term at the helm of football's world governing body - will take place on 1 June.

Collins added that Blatter had still not replied to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Commitee's invitation to come to Westminster to set out his "agenda for reform".

"The time has come to debate these extremely serious allegations properly, otherwise we will come to a point where governments will think twice about backing bids to stage World Cups," the Conservative member for Folkestone and Hythe said.

"Fifa needs to do a bit of soul-searching as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) did a few years ago. But I don't get any impression that this is high on their agenda."

Lord Triesman
Triesman made serious allegations against members of Fifa's ExCo

The IOC was forced to change the way bids for Olympic Games were assessed and voted upon after it emerged officials were bribed to choose Salt Lake City as the venue for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Last week, similar claims were made by former FA chairman Lord Triesman and The Sunday Times newspaper about six Fifa executive committee (ExCo) members in relation to last year's votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

These revelations came on top of the two ExCo members already suspended for selling their votes, meaning eight of the 24 most senior officials in world football have been implicated.

Collins, an influential voice on the Select Committee, said he was now talking to "parliamentarians" overseas about setting up an international forum to apply pressure on Fifa to address these issues.

He said the process was still at an early stage but he had received interest in the idea from Australia and the United States - two countries that, like England, suffered crushing defeats in the World Cup votes - as well as near-neighbours Germany and the Netherlands.

Having decided to ignore the "reform ticket" candidacies of American journalist Grant Wahl and former Chile star Elias Figueroa, the FA can now choose only between the unpopular Blatter and his controversial Qatari challenger Bin Hammam or else decide to spoil its ballot paper.

One unnamed FA board member told the Press Association on Wednesday that recent events had made it "very difficult" to back either man so abstention was "the most likely course".

In the meantime, Bin Hammam continues to deny all the allegations levelled at Qatar's bid and Blatter sticks to his "show me the evidence" line of defence, while calling for "evolution, not revolution".

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