ZURICH, July 20- FIFA chiefs on Monday recommended proposals to reform the scandal tainted world football body and a special election on February 26 to replace president Sepp Blatter who finally declared he will not be a candidate.
On a dramatic day Blatter was showered with fake dollar bills by a British comedian at the start of a press conference at which he fielded questions about the corruption storm that has engulfed FIFA.
The veteran FIFA president — who has been in charge since 1998 — hailed the reforms being recommended but refused to fall in line with one of the key proposals and declare his salary.
He was also repeatedly asked about whether he would stand for office again and finally said: “I will not be a candidate for the election in 2016 and there will be an election for a new president. I cannot be the new president because I am the old president.”
Potential candidates are already planning campaigns for the most high profile job in sports politics.
French favourite Michel Platini will announce within a fortnight whether he will throw his hat into the ring, according to a source close to the UEFA president.
“He (Platini) is seriously considering running. He will make a decision in the next two weeks maximum and then make an announcement,” the source said.
A US corruption investigation which led to the arrest of seven FIFA officials in Zurich on May 27 has left world football reeling and sparked widespread demands for radical change.
Blatter, who has been FIFA president for 17 years, won a fifth term as president two days after the police raid. But on June 2 he produced his equally stunning announcement that he would stand down.
“I had, with my conscience, to do something for FIFA,” Blatter said after an executive committee meeting which set the new election date.
FIFA had been engulfed in “a tsunami”, he acknowledged at a press conference delayed by British comic Simon Brodkin — who is a notorious prankster and most recently disrupted rapper Kanye West’s performance at the Glastonbury Festival — as he threw fake dollars at him before being hauled away by security guards.
Blatter hailed the moves toward reforms that government leaders around the world as well as football administrators have demanded.
A task force led by an independent chairman would look at measures including “enhanced centralized integrity checks for executive committee members, the introduction of term limits, higher standards of governance at all levels of football structures including confederations and member associations as well as individual disclosure of compensation,” a statement said.
Some sponsors have called for a figure of the stature of former UN secretary general Kofi Annan to head the reform group.
Blatter called the reform proposals “important” but refused several demands by journalists to disclose his salary.
The executive meeting came just two days after a former FIFA vice-president, Jeffrey Webb, appeared in a New York court and denied taking millions of dollars of bribes.
Webb, from the Cayman islands, was among the seven people detained in Zurich.
– Support for Platini –
US authorities have charged 14 people in all — soccer officials and sports business executives — over more than $150 million in bribes paid to secure television and marketing contracts for football tournaments.
Swiss authorities are in parallel investigating the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.
Candidates for the FIFA presidency have until October 26 to put their names forward.
So far only Brazilian football great Zico has officially declared himself. But Platini, the UEFA president, is considered the favourite to take over if he decides to stand.
“He has been pleased to hear a lot of words of support from some of the world’s leading football decision makers,” said UEFA spokesman Pedro Pinto.
The 60-year-old Frenchman has been boosted after getting verbal support from four of the six regional confederations that make up football’s world body, the source close to the UEFA leadership told AFP.
Only the Confederation of African Football (CAF) — led by Blatter ally Issa Hiyatou — and the Oceania confederation is not backing Platini.
The UEFA president has been a vociferous critic of Blatter as the corruption scandal has escalated.
In a statement, Platini welcomed the proposed FIFA reforms but gave no indication about his election plans.
“We must now make sure that the reforms outlined today will be undertaken in a swift and effective manner,” he said.
Platini backed Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, a former FIFA vice president from Jordan, when he stood against Blatter in May. The prince could again be a candidate in February’s election.
Chung Mong-Joon, another former FIFA member from South Korea, is also considering a run.