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Presidential rivals criticise FIFA boss Sepp Blatter at UEFA congress

FIFA President Sepp Blatter delivers his speech at the UEFA Congress in Vienna
Image: FIFA President Sepp Blatter delivers his speech at the UEFA Congress in Vienna

FIFA boss Sepp Blatter came under fire from his presidential election rivals at the UEFA congress in Vienna.

Blatter listened as he was accused of being authoritarian, not spending enough of FIFA’s wealth and tarnishing the world body's image.

Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, a FIFA vice president from Jordan, former Portugal star Luis Figo and Dutch federation Michel van Praag made their first face-to-face statements to the 79-year-old leader in a special debate at the UEFA congress.

Blatter refused to take part, but listened in the front row of the congress. Despite the opposition in Europe, Blatter is still favourite to win re-election on May 29.

"We need a change of culture and a departure from FIFA's authoritarian approach to strategy," said Prince Al Hussein.

"We are in a crucial time for football. Both inside and outside the football family, people have expressed concern about the way football is run."

Figo said he would not get involved in a personal campaign against Blatter.

But he told the leaders of the 54 European federations: "FIFA should not be dependent on a president. That is not healthy in any organisation or company. You all need to be more present in FIFA life.”

Figo said FIFA's minimum annual payment to the 209 member federations should be increased from £200,000 to £2m. FIFA reported revenue of around £3.5b over the past four years.

But it has been drawn into a storm of controversy over the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

Van Praag said: "The beautiful heritage of international football has been tarnished by ever continuing accusations of corruption, bribery, nepotism and waste of money.

"The current state of disarray asks for a change of leadership," added the Dutchman who said he would only serve one four-year term as a transitional leader.

"I simply cannot accept that we leave FIFA in its current shape for the next generation," said van Praag.

Blatter spoke to the UEFA congress only at the start of the meeting in the traditional speech as FIFA president. He made an appeal for unity without mentioning the looming election.

He called on the presidents of the European, Asian, North American and South American confederations, who were at the meeting, to show the "unity and this solidarity which exists as the foundations of football".

"Together with Europe, we need to build this unity on the inside and on the outside of your respective organisations," Blatter said.

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