Five officials hoping to succeed Sepp Blatter as president of global soccer's governing body FIFA have passed an internal ethics review and are cleared to run in the planned February election, the group's electoral committee announced in a statement Thursday. Two men, Musa Bility of Liberia and Michael Platini, head of the European soccer confederation UEFA, saw their hopes as presidential candidates dashed.
The approved candidates were Prince Ali Al Hussein of Jordan, Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, Jérôme Champagne of France, Gianni Infantino of Switzerland and Tokyo Sexwale of South Africa.
The electoral committee said it rejected the candidacy of Bility “in view of the content of the integrity check report relating to him,” but declined to provide more specific information, the New York Times reported. Platini, who had at times been considered the insider favorite to replace Blatter, submitted paperwork last month to enter the presidential race, but was soon provisionally suspended by FIFA amid a Swiss corruption investigation. The chairman of FIFA's electoral committee, Domenico Scala, told the Times he would not consider Platini as a candidate or perform an ethics review on the UEFA chief until his suspension was lifted. Platini has denied any wrongdoing.
Ad-hoc Electoral Committee admits five candidates for FIFA presidential election - https://t.co/g2YhRGflTu
— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) November 12, 2015
FIFA was thrown into disarray in May when seven international soccer officials were arrested on racketeering conspiracy and corruption charges brought down by the United States attorney general. Blatter announced days later he would step down from his spot atop FIFA. He has since been provisionally suspended by FIFA's ethics committee. Blatter was discharged from a hospital Thursday after suffering what has been described as a small emotional breakdown.
The announcement of the approved candidates did not come without its own controversy. Sheikh Salman, president of the Asian soccer confederation and a member of Bahrain's royal family, has been accused of playing a role in the jailing and torture of soccer players who demonstrated against his family during 2011's Arab Spring, the Times reported. He told the BBC the claims were "nasty lies" but advocates have held steady in their criticism.
The election of FIFA's next president is scheduled for Feb. 26. The integrity check of the candidates included "a review of corporate records, litigation cases, bankruptcy proceedings, potential regulatory actions taken against the candidate and a review of media reports concerning potential red flags," according to the electoral committee. The candidates were then asked to comment on their report's findings.