Jan. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan was elected vice president of soccer’s governing body FIFA, unseating a critic of president Sepp Blatter.
Ali will replace Chung Mong-Joon on the FIFA Executive Committee, ending the South Korean’s 16-year stay on the 24-member decision making panel. Ali won the vote 25-20 to claim one of FIFA’s eight vice presidencies at the Asian Football Confederation’s Congress in Doha, Qatar.
“I’m running because I want to see Asia take its rightful place in the FIFA family,” Ali said in a campaign video ahead of the vote. “I’m running because it’s time for change to run as one continent united.”
The removal of Chung, 59, may be a boost for Blatter’s bid for a fourth presidential term later this year. Chung has said it’s time for the 74-year-old to make way for a new leader and has considered standing as a candidate in May’s elections.
“I can confirm that the 25 people who voted for Prince Ali today will vote for President Blatter at the FIFA Congress because Blatter deserves to continue as FIFA president,” Sheikh Ahmad Ali Fahad Al Sabah, head of Kuwait’s soccer federation and one of Ali’s backers, told reporters after the vote.
Another possible candidate for the presidency, Mohamed Bin Hammam, 61, was endorsed for a further four-year term as head of Asian soccer after running unopposed. He’s also said it’s time for a challenger to Blatter, who was the only candidate when he won his third term in 2007.
The appointment of Ali, 35, and Bin Hammam’s re-election signal the Gulf’s growing profile in the sport. In December Qatar beat the likes of the U.S. and Australia to win the right to host the World Cup in 2022 despite the desert nation’s size -- it’s smaller than Connecticut -- and concerns about summer temperatures. Russia was elected to stage the 2018 event.
The World Cup votes were mired in controversy after FIFA suspended two executive committee officials following a corruption investigation after they were alleged to have offered to sell their votes to undercover reporters.
In his promotional video, Ali said he believes in “transparency, openness and integrity.” He didn’t give details of any reforms he’d like to see made to the 107-year-old organisation, which has built cash reserves of more than $1 billion and registered the same amount in profit, according to accounts published in March.
While the Gulf’s position has strengthened, east Asia’s influence on soccer has weakened. With Chung’s ousting, the region has lost all its presence on the executive committee after Japan’s Junji Ogura, 72, was forced to step down because he’d passed FIFA’s retirement age for members. His replacement is Vernon Manilal Fernando of Sri Lanka.
Billionaire Chung, a politician and a member of the family that controls Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea’s biggest carmaker, can still stand for the presidency. Yet, failing to secure the support of his region may be a signal he doesn’t have the backing necessary to mount a challenge.
Ali, son of the late King Hussein, joins siblings Prince Faisal and Princess Haya as a senior sports official. Prince Faisal is the head of the Jordanian Olympic Committee and Princess Haya leads the International Equestrian Federation. Both are members of the International Olympic Committee.
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