March 17 (Bloomberg) -- The head of soccer in Asia will run against incumbent Sepp Blatter for the presidency of the sport’s governing body, FIFA, according to two people familiar with the situation.
Mohamed Bin Hammam said he will hold a press conference tomorrow in Kuala Lumpur to announce his future plans and wouldn’t comment further. He will be the first challenger to Blatter since Cameroon’s Issa Hyatou tried to oust the 75-year-old Swiss in 2002. Blatter’s going for his fourth four-year term.
Bin Hammam, 61, will begin traveling to many of the 208 nations that belong to FIFA, starting with trips to Thailand and China, the people said. They didn’t want to be named because Bin Hammam hasn’t made an announcement. The election will be held June 1.
The FIFA President controls one of sport’s most influential bodies. The organization, which runs the World Cup, sports most-watched event, had revenue of $4 billion between 2007 and 2010. It has cash reserves of more than $1 billion and has sponsorships from Sony Corp., Coca-Cola Co. and Hyundai Motor Co.
Bin Hammam, who is a FIFA vice president, last year helped his home nation Qatar become the first Middle East country to be awarded the rights to stage the World Cup. The emirate, which is smaller than Connecticut, was a surprise choice for the 2022 event in a competition that featured the U.S., Japan, Korea and Australia.
The bidding race for that tournament and for the 2018 World Cup, which was also decided in December, was hurt after two of the 24 officials charged with making the decision and other FIFA executives were suspended. They were snared by undercover reporters from the Sunday Times newspaper, which alleged that votes could be bought.
Bin Hammam has said FIFA needs to become more transparent. He’s likely to get support from some of the nations that lost out in the vote, including England. Roger Burden, the F.A.’s interim chairman, quit a day after the World Cup vote, saying he didn’t “trust” FIFA.
Blatter told reporters recently the organization needed to improve its image.
“Competition is the best way to make the organization vibrant and alive,” Bin Hamman said on his Facebook page on March 5. “Competition is good for the organization, whether president or any other posts.”
In January, he said FIFA “needs a lot of improvement” and “there is something I can present and do for international football.”
Blatter, a former FIFA secretary general, was elected to his current role in 1998, replacing Brazilian Joao Havelange, who stood down after 24 years in the post. Bin Hammam’s efforts to introduce a term limit were rejected by FIFA’s decision making panel last year.
The successful staging of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa may have strengthened Blatter’s position. He fought against opponents, including members of FIFA’s executive committee, to take the tournament to Africa for the first time.
Blatter said “many, many” national associations backed his re-election bid.
A deadline for candidates is March 31. The election takes place at FIFA’s annual Congress in Zurich.
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