FIFA presidential election to be held on Feb 26

ZURICH: World soccer's troubled governing body FIFA will vote for a new president, to replace Sepp Blatter, at a special congress to be held on Feb. 26 in Zurich, the organisation said on Monday.

An "extraordinary elective congress" with all 209 member associations invited will decide on the successor to Blatter, who has been at the helm of FIFA since 1998.

The timing of the congress is later than many expected, with Europe's governing body UEFA widely reported to have pushed for a December vote.

FIFA statutes stipulate candidates need to have the written support of five member associations to stand and must announce their intention to run four months ahead of a vote, meaning the deadline for nominations is Oct. 26.

Blatter announced on June 2 that he was standing down, just four days after winning a fifth term with an election victory at a congress overshadowed by the arrest of seven soccer officials.

The 79-year-old had been re-elected after his only rival, Jordan's Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, withdrew after gaining 73 votes to Blatter's 133 in the first round of voting.

UEFA president Michel Platini has emerged as the early frontrunner, with a source close to European football's governing body saying the Frenchman enjoys support from four of the six regional confederations that make up FIFA.

Platini, a former France international who played for Italian club Juventus, has yet to state whether he intends to run, with the source saying he would decide within the next 10 days or so.

Blatter's election at the congress in May was overshadowed by the raids on a five-star hotel in Zurich which saw seven FIFA officials, including Vice President Jeffrey Webb, arrested.

Webb faces U.S. charges of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering. He pleaded not guilty at a U.S. court on Saturday and was released on bail.

The U.S. Department of Justice has indicted 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives on various charges.

Blatter has repeatedly said that he will not stand again and while he has reneged on that promise before, saying his election in 2011 was his last before changing his mind, it would be a major surprise if he made another U-turn.