English FA to abstain from FIFA presidential vote
Unable to choose between two candidates tainted by allegations of corruption scandal, the English Football Association said Thursday it will not vote in the election to choose the next FIFA president.
Sepp Blatter's campaign for a fourth term has been overshadowed by allegations that six members of the FIFA executive committee received or demanded bribes during the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Blatter's challenger is Mohamed bin Hammam, who helped to deliver the 2022 World Cup to his homeland of Qatar, which is alleged to have paid two of the accused FIFA executives $1.5 million to vote for the Gulf nation.
''The FA board has today agreed to abstain in the vote for the presidency of FIFA,'' FA chairman David Bernstein said in a statement. ''There are a well-reported range of issues both recent and current which, in the view of the FA board, make it difficult to support either candidate.''
Blatter was elected FIFA president in 1998 and is seeking a fourth four-year term. Having been re-elected unopposed in 2007, Blatter is facing his first challenger since he beat Issa Hayatou in 2002.
''I think it is a little bit strange when the No. 1 one association in the world, i.e. the FA, have two candidates in front of them and cannot make a decision which one to support,'' Blatter said shortly before the FA announced its decision.
According to evidence presented to the British parliament by The Sunday Times newspaper, executive committee members Hayatou and Jacques Anouma were paid $1.5 million to vote for Qatar last year. Blatter said he wants FIFA's corruption investigation to produce its findings before the June 1 election.
David Triesman, the chairman of the FA until last May, also told lawmakers last week that four long-standing FIFA executive committee members - Jack Warner, Nicolas Leoz, Ricardo Teixeira and Worawi Makudi - engaged in ''improper and unethical'' conduct in the 2018 bidding, which was won by Russia.
The FA is still unhappy that England only received two votes in last December's vote for the 2018 World Cup.
One FA board member, Roger Burden, was acting chairman at the time of the vote but withdrew his application to take the job on a full-time basis because he said he could no longer trust FIFA.
''The FA values its relationships with its international football partners extremely highly,'' said Bernstein, Burden's successor as FA chairman. ''We are determined to play an active and influential role through our representation within both UEFA and FIFA. We will continue to work hard to bring about any changes we think would benefit all of international football.''
Blatter said he tried to persuade Bernstein to back him at a meeting at Wembley Stadium in April.
''He asked me what FIFA can do for England and I put it the other way, 'What can England do for FIFA with their efficient Premier League?''' Blatter said in Zurich. ''They should ask, 'What can we do for FIFA?' They have a lot of rights but it's also a responsibility for them. I think Mr. Bernstein got the message but I don't know if the whole board is on the same track.
''I think he understood exactly what I said. The importance of the FA in the world of football and in the family of FIFA is very important.''
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Zurich contributed to this report.