By Simon Evans
ZURICH (Reuters) – FIFA is discussing delaying the election for its next president, two sources told Reuters, a move that could give Michel Platini more time to appeal against his ban from the game and then stand to replace departing leader Sepp Blatter.
The development came as soccer’s governing body said its executive committee would hold a crisis meeting on Oct. 20 at its headquarters in Zurich.
It did not say what would be discussed, but that committee is the only body with the power to delay the vote, currently scheduled for Feb. 26.
World soccer chief Blatter and UEFA boss Platini were suspended by FIFA’s Ethics Committee on Thursday, engulfed by a deepening corruption scandal as their sport faces criminal investigations in Switzerland and the United States.
Both say they have done nothing wrong and are appealing the suspensions.
Platini had been seen as a favourite to win the vote to replace Blatter. But his 90-day ban, together with a possible 45-day extension and the length of any appeals process were seen as major obstacles to his campaign.
ENGLAND CALLED FOR MEETING
England’s Football Association, which has supported Platini’s candidature, said on Friday it was among a number of other groups who had called for a FIFA crisis meeting where the election would be discussed.
Two sources with knowledge of the discussions told Reuters that a postponement of the election was already being discussed within FIFA and its member organisations.
“For the time being the schedule is as it is,” a FIFA spokesperson told Reuters, adding that she did not wish to speculate on the issue.
UEFA’s 54 member associations are gathering on Thursday at their headquarters in Nyon where the election will also be on the agenda, the spokesman from England’s FA said.
As it stands, the nominations to replace Blatter need to be provided by Oct. 26 and prospective candidates need to pass an integrity check based on FIFA’s Ethics code.
Unless he were to be given a swift appeal victory, Platini, who delivered his nomination papers just hours before his ban, would find himself in the very tricky position of trying to pass that test while banned from the game.
But a change in the date of the vote could see the entire timetable of the election change providing potentially more opportunity for Platini — or any other candidates who might want to enter the race once the ethics situation is clearer.
Another presidential candidate, South Korea’s Chung Mong-joon, was banned for six years, meaning he will almost certainly miss out.
Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan is the only remaining high-profile candidate along with outsider, former Brazil international Zico.
Platini’s ban relates to a 2 million Swiss francs payment he received from FIFA in 2011, which is part of a Swiss criminal inquiry into Blatter.
Switzerland’s Attorney General said Platini is being considered somewhere “between a witness and an accused person” in the case.
Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan said he would prefer to stick with the February date depending on the outcome of the appeals process against the bans.
Dutch FA (KNVB) executive director Bert van Oostveen said he was uncertain of the best way forward but wanted European federations to remain together on the issue.
But Karl-Erik Nilsson, chair of the Swedish Football Association (SvFF), told Reuters the date should not change.
“We want the election to be held on Feb. 26 as planned. Together with many European countries, we supported Michel Platini’s candidacy and we need more information about exactly what has happened.
Support for Platini could be damaged by the ban against him and the Belgian Football Association said it wanted more clarity about the situation.
“A few weeks ago the Belgian Football Association expressed its support for Michel Platini to create a new, clean and transparent FIFA through his candidature. The suspension of Michel Platini is, however, a new element in this file,” they said in statement.
“The Belgian Football Association calls for complete transparency and clarity with regards to the reasons for the suspensions. After internal consultation with other associations we will make our official position known.
“It is obvious we won’t support anyone proven guilty of fraud.”
(Additional reporting from David Ingram in New York, Mike Collett and Mark Hosenball in London, Phil O’Connor in Stockholm; Editing by Ossian Shine, Richard Balmforth and Andrew Heavens)