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FIFA to elect new president after Sepp Blatter’s suspension

FIFA members on Friday will elect a new president and pass reforms they hope will open an escape route from a storm of scandal symbolised by the downfall of veteran leader Sepp Blatter.

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The landmark presidential contest has become an Asia v Europe battle between Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa and Gianni Infantino.

But former FIFA vice-president Prince Ali bin al Hussein is aiming to upset the odds.

And even outsiders Jerome Champagne, an ex-FIFA official, and South African tycoon Tokyo Sexwale, have been doggedly pleading their cause to the more than 200 delegations in Zurich.

The result is uncertain and experts say that football leaders will not be able to escape multi-national corruption investigations even with a new president.

Blatter, 79, will be the big absentee at the extraordinary congress in Zurich. The Swiss sports baron suffered a spectacular fall over the last nine months.

Swiss police, acting under US warrants, arrested seven FIFA officials in Zurich two days before his reelection last May.

Blatter has since been banned from football for six years for ethics breaches and could face criminal charges.

With sponsors holding back on deals and a controversial 2018 World Cup in Russia looming, Sexwale said on the eve of the vote that FIFA was a “broken house”.

Infantino, general secretary of Europe`s football bloc UEFA, and Sheikh Salman, president of the Asian Football Confederation, have offered starkly different paths for FIFA.

While promising reforms similar to those to be voted Friday, Infantino has proposed increasing the World Cup from 32 to 40 teams and to more than double the amount given back to the 209 national associations to more than $1 billion in total every four years.

Sheikh Salman, who is seen as closer to the FIFA old guard and has a bedrock of support in Asia and Africa, has said the proposal could bankrupt FIFA.

He said Thursday he would not “mortgage” FIFA`s future to win votes.

The sheikh has advocated splitting FIFA into commercial and football divisions with himself as more of a figurehead president.

Each of the rivals has political problems.

Infantino was for seven years the right hand man of Michel Platini, the UEFA president also banned for six years for ethics breaches.

Sheikh Salman, a senior member of Bahrain`s ruling family, has faced tough questions about the clampdown on pro-democracy protests in the Gulf state. He has called allegations made by human rights groups “nasty lies.”

Going into the election, the voting maths is dizzying for Infantino and Sheikh Salman. Both have expressed confidence however.

The AFC and Confederation of African Football (CAF), which between them have 100 votes, have publicly said they are backing 50-year-old Sheikh Salman.

However, Football Federation Australia said Friday it will vote for Prince Ali.

Europe and a big bloc of votes in the Americas are largely behind 45-year-old Infantino.

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