(WFI) Rumours of a deal between Shaikh Salman and Gianni Infantino in the FIFA election race have been scotched after the Bahraini’s team slammed the use of UEFA funding for his campaign.
Infantino last week confirmed that 500,000 euros ($542,000) from UEFA coffers had been set aside to cover travel expenses and logistical support on his globe-trotting mission to secure the FIFA presidency.
The Asian Football Confederation chief believes Infantino, the UEFA general secretary, is flouting the rules.
“Shaikh Salman is funding his campaign out of his own pocket,” the Asian Football Confederation president’s campaign spokesman told INSIDER.
“Unlike others, who take recourse to using confederation money, Shaikh Salman sticks to regulations governing the electoral campaign. To make it abundantly clear to you: no, he is not using AFC funds.”
Infantino and UEFA declared the campaign financing in a bid to be transparent about campaign finance issues, INSIDER is told.
INSIDER understands that the Swiss candidate is not considering a deal with Salman, especially after Thursday’s endorsement from the South American football confederation (CONMEBOL). He is said to be in it to win it.
Questioned about his campaign funding, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan tells INSIDER he had previously clarified how his bid was being financed to FIFA electoral committee chairman Domenico Scala.
“I responded to confirm that no confederation or association monies would be used in my campaign,” Prince Ali said. “All funds for my campaign have come from private resources – friends and family.”
FIFA Candidates in Qatar
The campaign financing row erupted as four of the five FIFA presidential candidates gathered in Qatar to lobby Asian federation leaders. They are attending the AFC U-23 championship final between South Korea and Japan in Doha on Saturday.
Shaikh Salman chaired an AFC executive committee meeting on Thursday. Infantino, Tokyo Sexwale and Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein are also in Qatar. Jerome Champagne is in Paris on Friday and tells INSIDER he’s “travelling and canvassing” when asked if he’s also heading to the Gulf nation.
As his rivals attempt to chip
away at Salman’s support in Asia, the AFC executive committee “again took the opportunity to re-iterate their total support for Shaikh Salman’s FIFA presidential campaign”. Asia’s leading football officials gave him unequivocal backing at their last meeting in Delhi in November.
“Thanks to your encouragement I have been able to enter this election with the overwhelming support of my Confederation, and that is clearly a massive help in my campaign,” Salman said in a statement.
Commenting about his FIFA campaign, Salman said “I have received significant support around the world, and am happy with how the campaign has gone so far. So I go into the final month with confidence for the future of FIFA.”
Prince Ali, who was defeated by Sepp Blatter in the May election, tells INSIDER that Shaikh Salman won’t have it his own way.
The former FIFA vice president announced last week that Iraq had endorsed his campaign but has not revealed which other federations are backing his bid.
“I have support from associations in each and every confederation but it is for member associations to decide when and how they publicly announce that support,” he told INSIDER.
In a jibe at Salman’s claims to have locked up support from the Asian confederation and Infantino’s touting of CONMEBOL’s backing, he said: “It is clear though that the days of confederation bloc voting are over.”
The Asian Football Confederation will hold a special meeting with its 47 member associations in Kuala Lumpur in February to discuss the FIFA Reform Committee governance proposals announced last month.
The AFC executive said on Friday that it would hold the meeting prior to the AFC confederation meeting in Zurich, which will take place in the days before the Feb. 26 FIFA presidential election. The reforms package agreed under the chairman of Francois Carrard will be voted on at the congress.
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
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