Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa (INSIDER)

(WFI) Bahrain FA boss Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa is running for president of the Asian Football Confederation with a ‘United for Change’ campaign.

Sheikh Salman yesterday became the first person to make official his candidacy for AFC president when he submitted papers to the confederation’s Kuala Lumpur headquarters.

Four years after failing by two votes to defeat Mohamed bin Hammam for a seat on the FIFA executive committee, the secretary general of Bahrain’s Supreme Council for Youth and Sports now appears better prepared to make a serious pitch to succeed the disgraced Qatari as Asian football boss.

His four-page campaign brochure – seen by INSIDER – sets out his mission statement, with a website – www.asiaunited2013.com – set to go live after the March 3 nominations deadline closes.

“I’m standing for election because I believe Asian football has reached an important crossroads,” Sheikh Salman says in the document. “It needs the right leadership to take it forward within the global football family.

“My mission is clear,” he goes on. “I will unite Asian football and lead our community towards a brighter future by strengthening the basis of the football pyramid which is formed by our 47 member associations.”

Sheikh Salman vows to include “all members of our family in an open process of mutual understanding and transparent dialogue”.

“It is time for Asia to speak with one voice – I invite you to be part of this journey”

Other candidates expected to declare their candidatures in the coming days include Thailand’s FIFA Ex-Co member Worawi Makudi, who announced his plans to stand on Monday, United Arab Emirates FA chairman and AFC vice-president Yousef Al Serkal and AFC marketing committee chair Hafez Al Medlej of Saudi Arabia. China’s acting AFC president Zhang Jilong has indicated that he wants the job full-time.

In 2009, Sheikh Salman’s bitter battle with Bin Hammam for the coveted FIFA executive committee seat did nothing at all to unite Asia. It was characterized by personal attacks, power abuse claims and cash bribes for votes, as reported by INSIDER at the time. Bin Hammam won 23 votes to his opponent’s 21, with two spoiled votes cast.

Bin Hammam’s two-year fight against bribery claims linked to the FIFA presidential election race ended with him quitting football after FIFA dished out a second lifetime ban in December over corruption allegations following claims of financial mismanagement as AFC chief.

Fast forward to 2013.

In his seven-point plan, Sheikh Salman states in his campaign brochure that his top priority is to “reunite the Asian football community”, adding: “It’s diversity is also its strength and I will promote solidarity between players, clubs, leagues and the 47 AFC member associations”.

His other goals are:

* Safeguard the universality of the game by leading the fight against match-fixing, doping and illegal betting;
* Rebuild the relationship between FIFA, AFC and its 47 member associations by acting as the confederation’s sole representative voice in international football;
* Ensure full financial transparency by introducing the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and producing an externally audited annual report;
* Guarantee equality in the fair distribution of AFC commercial revenues and the allocation of football development and grassroots projects to its 47 member associations;
* Increase the game’s accessibility to players, clubs and national teams;
* Broaden the appeal of women’s football by investing AFC revenues to develop and promote international competitions.

Improving Asian Football Governance

Sheikh Salman makes a reference to the Bin Hammam scandals that have tarnished the governance of Asian football, especially the claims of abuse of AFC finances that brought the Qatari’s football career to an ignominious end.

He states that the AFC “must move with the times and ensure that the sport is governed along international lines and in accordance with FIFA’s expectations”.

In comments to the Associated Press this week, Sheikh Salman said the AFC should learn the lessons from its past so that they shouldn’t be repeated.

The Bahraini’s campaign brochure also features his pledges to modernise the game in Asia.

He promised to introduce technology for AFC competitions to “adopt a more progressive approach and improve technical aspects of the game”. This could be a reference to FIFA’s embracing of goal-line tech systems, which will be in operation at the Brazil 2014 World Cup.

Commenting on the need for the AFC to improve its social responsibility to its members, Sheikh Salman is planning to launch a new CSR initiative. Branded ‘Asian Football for Change’, it would “tackle the social challenges which some regions of Asia face”.

It remains to be seen how well prepared the other AFC presidential candidates are for the two-month battle ahead. All may
The new AFC president will be voted in at the confederation’s extraordinary congress in Kuala Lumpur on May 2. The assembly will also choose a FIFA Ex-Co representative and a female AFC vice-president.

By INSIDER’s Mark Bisson

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