Former FIFA rival Prince Ali: Blatter must leave now

ZURICH:  Prince Ali bin al-Hussein wants Sepp Blatter to leave now as FIFA president, and let a leader from outside the sport oversee the next election and reforms of soccer's scandal-scarred governing body.

The former FIFA presidential candidate urged the executive committee, which meets later Monday, not to rush into an early election date.

"The future of FIFA is at stake," Prince Ali, a vice president for four years until May, said in a statement to The Associated Press. "If a December election is called, there will not be the meaningful change in the leadership of FIFA that we so desperately need."

Change must start with Blatter's immediate departure, the Jordanian prince said in his first public comments since June 2 when the embattled FIFA president announced his exit plans under pressure from U.S. and Swiss federal investigations of corruption.

"President Blatter's resignation cannot be dragged out any longer. He must leave now," Prince Ali said, insisting his former opponent "cannot be permitted to plan his succession and manage this election process."

Blatter's stunning speech followed four days after a 133-73 election victory over Prince Ali, who gained votes from member associations in each of FIFA's six continents.

Since then, Blatter has avoided FIFA events held in countries which have an extradition treaty with the United States.

Seemingly wanting to cling on to office after 40 years at FIFA, Blatter prefers an election as late as March and have time to improve his legacy by driving through modernizing reforms.

Prince Ali joined longtime World Cup sponsor Coca-Cola and former FIFA advisers Transparency International in calling to exclude a man who presided over a scandal-hit organization from the process of shaping its future.

They want FIFA to appoint a respected figure from outside the sport.

"An interim independent leadership must be appointed to administer the process of the elections, in addition to the reforms that are being discussed prior to the elections," Prince Ali said. "Only an independent party can ensure that sufficient safeguards are put in place to ensure a robust process and meaningful timetable."

Signaling a split with his previous backers at UEFA, the sport's European confederation, Prince Ali also warned against FIFA rushing its 209 member associations into the earliest possible election day.

"No date before March 2016 can be justified," he said.

FIFA rules require a four-month campaign following a deadline for would-be candidates to file nomination papers.

The December option is unfair on FIFA members, said Prince Ali, who has been president of Jordan's national football body since 1999.

"It will not be possible for any of the other football associations of the world to put forward credible candidates from our community," he said. "It is their absolute right to be a part of this process, and to have time to carefully consider the future without being rushed into an early election."

Prince Ali gave no indication in his statement of whether he intends to run again for the FIFA presidency.

Still, he said in a June 2 interview with CNN that he wanted the best for FIFA and would run if members wanted him to. UEFA president Michel Platini is considered a favorite for the role, but has not declared intent.