By Simon Evans
ZURICH (Reuters) – FIFA presidential candidate Tokyo Sexwale says he wants national teams to be able to wear sponsors’ names on their shirts at an expanded World Cup tournament.
South African Sexwale, a prisoner under apartheid who became a politician and businessman, unveiled his election manifesto on Wednesday as he bids to replace Sepp Blatter at the helm of world football’s governing body in the Feb. 26 vote.
Sexwale said the current crisis at FIFA, which faces investigations from the U.S. Department of Justice and Swiss authorities and was hit by the indictment of 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives in May, can be “utilised to turn things around and renew FIFA”.
Repeating his call for a strong commitment to development programmes to help the game outside its profitable centre in Europe, Sexwale promised an “open door policy” to national associations and to “allow stakeholders easier access” to the FIFA president.
But his most eye-catching proposal is to allow the national associations to generate more sponsorship revenue by allowing company logos on shirts.
Sexwale said he would “seriously explore the possibility of the national jersey, as happens in other sporting codes, bearing the logo of the main sponsor – not only the jersey-maker as is currently the case.
“There is space there for much value worth millions of dollars which will be destined directly into FAs’ (national football associations’) coffers,” he said.
Shirt sponsorship became widespread in the club game in the 1980s but FIFA have not allowed deals for national team jerseys, with FAs limited to sponsorship on training tops and off-the-field equipment.
Sexwale said that FIFA needed to “take a hard look, with sensitivity” at the imbalances in representation at World Cups among regional confederations. Europe, which has 53 FAs, has 13 World Cup slots while Africa, with 54 members, has just five.
The South African proposed no specific numbers but opened the door to an expansion of FIFA’s biggest tournament.
“Concerning the number of national teams in the World Cup, it is proposed this be above the current 32 teams, subject to an inclusive discussion by the FIFA executive committee,” he said.
Sexwale called for the creation of an ‘international advisory board’ made up of 11 “internationally respected eminent persons from various walks of life, including football”.
He said this body, which would meet annually “to share its critical views with an about FIFA” would be “part of the effort to win back the trust and confidence of various stakeholders following the disruptive corruption allegations which have damaged the FIFA brand”.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini are both currently serving 90-day suspensions from the game and lost appeals on Wednesday against them.
Their bans relate to a 2 million Swiss franc payment from FIFA to Platini in 2011, nine years after Platini had completed work for FIFA.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by Andrew Roche)