March 22nd, 2011
10:02 AM ET

Can Bin Hammam change FIFA for the better?

FIFA presidential candidate Mohammad Bin Hammam has been head of the Asian Football Confederation for 13 years.
FIFA presidential candidate Mohammad Bin Hammam has been head of the Asian Football Confederation for 13 years.

He wants to reform FIFA, make it "transparent"; bring back "trust" and "credibility" to world football's governing body. But after meeting presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam, it is hard to say if he can and will fulfill those headline-grabbing pledges.

There is no doubt he cuts an impressive figure. Often in traditional Arab robes, Bin Hammam wore a smart suit for our interview in Paris on Monday. Weary from a day of journalistic interrogation, the head of Asia’s Football Confederation (AFC) nonetheless greeted me warmly and was as charming as most successful sports administrators tend to be.

In my experience, those who run global sporting organizations are adept at flashing smiles and distributing handshakes, while suggesting enough inner steel to make you phrase your questions carefully.

Sepp Blatter's presidential rival was in France to lobby support at a UEFA Congress meeting and there are already reports of a warm reception from Michel Platini. If the head of European football backs Bin Hammam now, it could pave the way for Platini to go for FIFA's top job in 2015.

That sort of arrangement may feel like more of the same to football fans, fed up with FIFA's arcane leadership, however, it does suggest that Bin Hammam is at least serious about one of his election pledges: to limit the length of a presidents' term of office.

He says he has implemented just such a rule in his own AFC, and will stand down in 2015. Although it should be noted that, by then, he will - if successful - have been in charge for 13 years, the same length of time as Sepp Blatter’s current reign at FIFA.

The other major question mark, for those who doubt Bin Hammam is the right man to change FIFA, hangs over the successful, but controversial, 2022 World Cup bid by his home country of Qatar.

The Doha resident insisted that they had followed FIFA rules and regulations but admitted the public were skeptical about the process and that is why he wanted to make it more transparent in future.

In the same way as an experienced politician, Bin Hammam returned to that word “transparency” time and again. He admitted the public’s trust in FIFA has been lost, along with the organization's credibility.

However, he stopped short in blaming Blatter personally. Instead, Bin Hammam claimed the FIFA president had lost his impetus after years of defending the organization and it is simply time for a change.

The Qatari admits he has not spoken to Blatter since announcing he will stand against him and, although he pleaded for a friendly fight, the battle for FIFA’s presidency could grow increasingly bitter.

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Sachiko

    Hi Alex. I'm feeling how difficult and complicated for authorities to deal with transparency, watching recent political issues such as WikiLeaks controversy and secretive Japanese authorities about nuclear crisis. Surely human has always just cause and ulterior motive, not all things necessarily ought to be open to public, but we public have a right to know behind the scenes as needed. Of course the road to election day would also have a lot of behind the scene, we'll see how sufficient they could bring transparency on that.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Reply
  2. jorgen friis

    Blatter must go. Thats indisputable. Its time for a much needed change. Whether Bin Hamman is the man is impossible to say like it was when Blatter was elected. Personally feel any change away from the Blatter regime will be an improvement. From what I have heard and read I believe Bin Hamman could be a good choice for president and hope he will be given a fair go

    March 22, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Reply
  3. Marcelle Hugues

    Mr. Bin Hammam approach to the subject is very good and I believe by pursuing in this direction, he could actually be the Man the FiFa has been looking for.

    He has a chance to change FIFA, the Fifa is not a kingdom and Mr. Blatter should stepdown.

    Kind Regards,

    March 22, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Reply
  4. SDev

    So, let me get this straight....

    The guy in charge of the Qatari WC bid, that won under dubious conditions and charges of quid-pro-quo vote fixing, is now running for FIFA president.

    And, we're being told in the story, that Platini will back him for president now, as long as Bin Hamman backs Platini for president in 2015.

    Platini is the same guy that bent over backwards to justify the rationale for selecting Qatar, including proposing having the WC in the winter.

    You're right! This is totally transparent. In the sense that FIFA's vote fixing, back-scratching, corrupt executives are trading in their chips. And their are doing so right in the public eye, without a care in the world.

    The only thing missing is to have that WC referee from Mali, made the head of the FIFA rules committee.

    March 22, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Reply
  5. David

    This is the man who wants to kick the Phoenix out of the A League. It will be a terrible day for NZ if he got in. Anyone but him.

    March 22, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Reply
  6. Tim Millard

    We football fans are all keen to see the back of Sepp Blatter, that is certain. However we must be cautious about the 'anyone will be better than Blatter' approach. In our haste to eject the imbecilic Blatter, we could end up with someone worse. What other candidates are there? Where do they stand on video replay? goal line technology? microchip tracking devices in balls?

    March 23, 2011 at 9:54 am | Reply
  7. Gregorio Barrilero

    I believe that given the global impact of FIFA decisions we need to have a FIFA president from a highly proven and "football" developed region of the world namely: Europe or Latin America. Never mind opening up to the rest of the world, etc. FIFA needs to follow the lead of the trends coming out of the areas with the most developed football sense and NOT from areas where crazy new ideas could be more beneficial to their own purposes rather than those of the areas of critical mass. In this sense perhaps UEFA is better positioned to determine policy for FIFA as a whole.

    March 23, 2011 at 10:15 am | Reply
  8. kasonde

    Bin Hamman was in charge of the Qatari WC bid, that won under dubious conditions and charges of vote fixing, is now running for FIFA president. He made a deal wth platini another corrupt official.

    As for Bin Hammam he bribed many players and federations for the Qater world cup. he is probably the worse than blatter ., also what has he proposed, nothing so far.

    Platini is the same guy that bent over backwards to justify the rationale for selecting Qatar, including proposing having the WC in the winter.

    blatter needs to go, I hope other fifa members dont support platini cuz his worse than blater, platini does not even want video technology in the game blatter at least has said he will consider.

    Grant wahl is the best choice , his proposals of video replays is needed in football, we need more representation from women. for Football to grow Fifa has to consider bring more women into the fold. Also his proposal of goal technology and not giving yellow cards for players removing their shirts is good. ,here more important and worse things than players removing shirts.

    I hope Grant Wahl wins

    March 23, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Reply
  9. seriously?

    Indonesian football association chief was a criminal. (convicted twice) However, Bin Hamman allowed him to run the organization from behind bars. Rumors has it that Bin Hamman protected the man, so that he can get the necessary vote for the last AFC election.

    I would like to see Bin Hamman explaining that one.

    So much for the transparency.

    March 24, 2011 at 3:16 am | Reply
  10. Nate

    Hey, no one is sure he ll ever change FIFA if elected! I guess any candidate who was in favour of Blatter in the past should only contest after 2015! What kind of transparency is needed? No one ever raised an eyebrow in the past during the host country selection processes. Bin Hamman will not deliver the much needed reforms, infact there is no one more credible than Blatter at this stage. A bird in hand, they say is worth two in the Bush!

    March 25, 2011 at 10:26 am | Reply

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