The FIFA Presidential Election is finally upon us (*cue epic UCL anthem*). It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The fateful day that will determine how the governing body of world fútbol is run in the future. Since Kuwait and Indonesia are currently suspended, only 207 of FIFA’s 209 member associations will have a say in the matter.
Here’s what you need to know:
Tomorrow: February 26, 2016. There’s no specific time (don’t plan on waking up early unless you want to watch the pomp and circumstance for at least half of your day while listening to white noise in the form of elevator jazz), but it’s worth noting that the election is no. 11 on a 12-item agenda. Officials are set to begin arriving around 9 a.m. local time (3 a.m. EST). Side note: This is all going down despite Prince Ali’s fervent attempts to get it postponed amidst requests for transparent voting booths.
Zurich, Switzerland. No, I know what you’re thinking – the vote will not be taking place at the Baur au Lac hotel, where pre-dawn arrests have shocked FIFA to its core on multiple occasions over the past year (including 16 Latin American officials this past December). It will instead happen at Hallenstadion, a 13-000 capacity entertainment venue.
Who are the candidates?
There are five men in contention to become FIFA’s first new president in almost two decades: Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa, Gianni Infantino, Tokyo Sexwale, Jerome Champagne, and Prince Ali bin al-Hussein. To learn more about them, check out our guide to the candidates here.
Who are the frontrunners?
FIFA consists of six confederations, some of which have already endorsed a candidate. The Confederation of African Football, for example – with its 56 member associations – has come out in open support of Salman, who also boasts majority endorsement in the Asian region (which makes sense, given that he is currently the confederation’s president). Infantino appears to have the approval of most of Europe (UEFA has 54 votes), making him the second of two frontrunners. Early poll predos give Salman the edge – stating that he could pick up around 90 votes in the first round to Infantino’s 80 – but the difference makers could very well be Prince Ali supporters in subsequent voting rounds (his dislike of Salman is no secret or small thing).
Why is this so damn important?
Putting aside the physical pain that we feel knowing all too well that Blatter still receives a presidential salary and could easily return to fútbol in time for Qatar 2022, this election is essential and vital in its ability to help shape how FIFA functions moving forward and how funds are allocated around the globe (which directly impacts 50 percent of member associations who rely heavily on development money). The election of a new president is key, but it might not even be the most crucial component; members will also vote on reform packages that could potentially provide much needed transparency, oversight, and checks and balances.
Among these reforms are: providing term limits for top officials; requiring salary disclosure; disbanding the executive committee in favor of a new 36-member FIFA council with a minimum of six women; transferring day-to-day operations to a new “general secretariat” a la corporate executive board; and demanding annual audits on regional confederations and national associations.
Here goes nothing.