Well and truly over: AFC elections for new Fifa council called off after ‘No’ vote halts extraordinary congress

Hong Kong Football Association is one of 42 of the 44 members who had voting rights to vote down the agenda of the meeting in Goa

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 1:48pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 3:35pm

Asian elections for three seats on the new Fifa Council were called off after just 27 minutes on Tuesday after delegates to the Asian Football Confederation’s extraordinary congress in Goa voted down the agenda of the meeting.

The Hong Kong Football Association was one of the 42 out of 44 members who had voting rights at the meeting raised a “No” card when Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Shaikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa called for the agenda of the meeting to be passed.

After members applauded after voting 42-1 against the agenda, Hong Kong Football Association chief executive Mark Sutcliffe confirmed the congress will not resume, saying “it’s well and truly over.”

Delegates said the agenda was rejected because a senior Qatari official had been banned from standing, just 24 hours before the vote was due to take place.

World governing body Fifa banned Saoud Al Mohannadi, vice president of the Qatar Football Association, from the election on Sunday because of an ongoing corruption investigation and recommended a two-and-a-half-year ban, leaving six candidates.

Fifa has not revealed the subject of the corruption inquiry, but it is not connected with allegations related to the 2022 World Cup, which Qatar will host.

Watch: AFC members vote “No”

Al Mohannadi, who denies any wrongdoing, was one of the favourites to win a seat on the new body and had cleared the necessary Fifa integrity check but was barred for refusing to cooperate with a corruption investigation.

The debacle was witnessed by Fifa president Gianni Infantino, who beat Sheikh Salman to the job in an election in February and who was in Goa for the congress.

AFC president Sheikh Salman said it was “probably the shortest congress” he had ever chaired.

“It has been an eventful morning and the message is clear to us all. Now my final task is to declare the extraordinary congress closed,” said the Bahraini when reading from what appeared to be a prepared speech.

“But the Congress has spoken with one voice and that has been clear for us all to see. Fifa President, Gianni Infantino, I am not sure if you have been at a shorter congress but I think you can see the strength of opinion in the room.”

Fifa’s all-powerful executive committee, which had become the epicentre of corruption at the organisation, was rebranded as the Fifa Council at the body’s congress in Mexico earlier this year.

It is meant to operate in a similar way to a company’s board of directors as part of plans to make Fifa more transparent, including in the awarding of World Cup hosting rights, following a string of corruption scandals.

After the congress, the AFC held an emergency executive committee meeting where Shaikh Salman added: “Today the AFC and Asian football has shown solidarity and unity. The message has been clear to everyone both inside and outside Asia.

“Football in Asia is united and that is down to you – the Members - and I thank you for sending out such a strong message that we stand united.”

The AFC executive committee co-opted the vice president and secretary general of the Chinese Football Association, Zhang Jian, to sit on the committee until the next extraordinary congress.

The AFC will now engage with Fifa to establish the timeline for convening the next congress.

Three male candidates – Zhang of China, Iran’s Ali Kafashian Naeni and Zainudin Nordin of Singapore – were set to compete for two of the seats in Tuesday’s vote.

Former Australian footballer Moya Dodd was favourite to beat Mahfuza Ahkter of Bangladesh and North Korea’s Han Un-gyong to be the AFC’s designated female representative.

“It was not the right way to go about things. I wish this process had been done much earlier,” Praful Patel, president of the All India Football Federation, said.

“It’s only fair that elections take place in a way that is fair and just. When people file nominations I think at that stage it’s better if they know whether they are going to be able to contest or not.”

Six candidates from Asia, including China and North Korea, had been due to vie for three seats on the Fifa Council, which was set-up under anti-corruption reforms earlier this year.

Infantino is undertaking a clean-up of Fifa after a series of corruption scandals and bribery allegations plunged the body into crisis.

Former president Sepp Blatter is serving a six-year ban from football over ethics violations, while former secretary general Jerome Valcke was banned for 10 years over misconduct regarding television deals and 2014 World Cup ticket sales.

Allegations of vote-buying have also dogged the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 edition to Qatar.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse