FIFA hopeful Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein calls on Sepp Blatter to join debate
Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, one of Sepp Blatter's three rivals for the FIFA presidency, has called for all candidates to engage in an open debate on the future of the world governing body after the 79-year-old rejected taking part in a live televised forum.
Blatter's refusal to take part in the joint BBC/Sky initiative was expected, but he has also refused to address next week's UEFA Congress along with the other candidates, insisting he will only speak in his role as the current FIFA president.
Prince Ali, a FIFA vice-president from Jordan who is standing against Blatter along with Dutch federation president Michael van Praag and former Portugal international Luis Figo, said on Thursday: "I believe that this election campaign is an opportunity for an open and mature debate about the future direction of FIFA and all four candidates have a responsibility to football to engage in this debate.
"The broadcasters' initiative is a good one and should be supported."
Blatter's opponents are reported to be concerned that he is using his position to gain influence with national associations in the run-up to the election on May 29 -- he has appointed no campaign officials but only this week FIFA announced 19 new development projects under its GOAL programme worth $11.4 million in funding.
FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke has reminded "all FIFA staff members that they, consultants or any other persons appointed by or working for FIFA are not permitted to take part in any way in these election campaigns."
Prince Ali, Van Praag and Figo are all due to address the UEFA Congress in Vienna on Tuesday, but Blatter will only speak to the European governing body in his FIFA presidential address earlier. It also means he will avoid being drawn into any debate or questions.
Blatter will, however, face questions at a news conference in Zurich on Friday following FIFA's executive committee meeting that will decide on the dates for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which is to be played in the winter to avoid the fierce heat of June and July.
The likely outcome is that a shortened tournament will take place running from Sunday Nov. 20 and finishing four weeks later on Sunday Dec. 18, which is Qatar's national day.
Meanwhile, Russia's sports minister Vitaly Mutko has attacked calls to boycott the 2018 World Cup in his country.
Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko has said countries should consider a boycott if Russia does not pull troops out of eastern Ukraine where a civil war is going on between pro-Moscow separatists and government forces.
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Mutko, who is also a FIFA executive committee member, said in Zurich: "Boycotts never have any result, with the exception that athletes prepare half their lives and do not have the opportunity to perform.
"Sport should be beyond politics. The world sports community is very negative about ideas of boycotting a sports event."
Mutko was speaking after making a presentation to FIFA about World Cup preparations -- the Russia 2018 organising committee has had to cut its budget by 10 percent and reduce the size of some stadiums following a collapse in the value of the rouble, caused by the slump in the international oil price and sanctions imposed over Ukraine.