Exclusive - FIFA Vice President Offers Vision for Better Football Governance

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Prince Ali of Jordan takes a seat at his first FIFA Ex-Co meeting in Zurich next week (West Asian Football Federation)
(WFI) FIFA vice-president Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein tells INSIDER he is looking to make a significant impact in his new role on world football’s governing body.

After officially becoming the FIFA vice-president from Asia at the FIFA Congress in Zurich on June 1, Prince Ali will attend his first executive committee meeting on Oct. 20 and 21.

At just 35, Prince Ali is only half the age of the majority of his Ex-Co peers - and the youngest member by a long way. But he believes his input is just as valuable.

“I think there should be diversity in decision-making, and I can present my perspective – I’m not looking at a youth perspective but one that comes from experience," the Jordanian told INSIDER.

“I’m still young, and I have a different angle on how things are run and I want to bring that to FIFA. I am going to bring as much as I can from my perspective.”

Next week's FIFA Ex-Co meeting will be under the global spotlight as president Sepp Blatter unveils his much-anticipated "radical" reforms after the fall-out from bribery allegations involving former vice-presidents Mohamed Bin Hammam and Jack Warner. A series of 2018/2022 World Cup bribery scandals have also wrecked FIFA's reputation internationally.

Prince Ali, who heads the West Asian Football Federation, believes FIFA should be more “open and transparent”.

He also spoke of his desire for the governing body to get to grips with “problem solving” in the global game instead of being concerned with “politics and who says what".

“FIFA cannot be everywhere all over the world all the time. It’s not politics, it’s problem-solving and we have to do that. If you take a country like Indonesia, which is huge, to have them suspended is ridiculous," he said.

“Let’s solve the problem but you have to go on the ground and get people in these positions. Ex-Co members need to engage and I know a lot of them do but that has to be the way of doing it.

“We serve their [the 208 FIFA members] interests – if they have a problem, they fall back to us to find a solution before it goes to the wrong people. But they have to trust you and respect you.”

Prince Ali, son of the late King Hussein, shocked world football when he ousted Korea's Chung Mong-joon from the Asian FIFA vice-presidency position at AFC elections in January.

Prince Ali on English FA problems
The head of the Jordanian FA has some strong words for any government intervening in football associations, singling out issues between the British government and the English FA following a select committee report into how the sport is governed in the country.

“FIFA is larger than the UN,” he said, “and it’s a good thing that everyone has an equal say. However when England has parliamentarians and politicians talking... if that had happened in any other country then they would have been penalised and punished because no government can intervene in these affairs," he told INSIDER.

“I have great respect for English football and a great relationship with the Football Association. But one has to be careful because others can compare [the situation] with themselves.

"The English Premier League is obviously the top of the world but you have to lead by example.”

His comments to INSIDER came ahead of today's response from the British government to the Culture, Media and Sport’s select committee report into football governance.

The government on Wednesday warned the English FA that it must revamp its board and introduce rules to reduce debt levels at clubs by Feb. 29 or face legislation.

Sports minister Hugh Robertson put it bluntly: "I believe that there are improvements that can be made in the governance arrangements, which have failed to keep up with the changing pace of the modern game. I do not want government to run football, so this is an opportunity for the football family to work together to benefit the game in the long-term.”

Some of Prince Ali’s ideas for improvement in the governance of the global game include more international cooperation. He claims the six FIFA confederations should have a closer working relationship with each other and their member associations.

“It’s about trying to bring people together from all the confederations. FIFA does a lot for the whole world of football but UEFA has a big influence on certain areas," he said.

"I have learned
Prince Ali with FIFA chief Sepp Blatter at the FIFA Congress in June (WAFF)
a lot from UEFA but confederations need to open up to each other and have a give-and-take, so I’ll work on that as well.”

The area closest to his heart is the development of the Asian confederation. Prince Ali wants to have a distinctly hands-on approach to help improve the game from the grassroots level upwards.

He said plans are already taking shape. “We did something that was a bit different, we have a programme. The programme is based on protecting the game from the grassroots which is very, very important.

“There’s a lot of focus on competitions, and also much on the actual development from schools to all levels – basic infrastructure. I’m not talking about building headquarters, I’m talking about building technology for artificial pitches for schools and so on.”

Another key area for improvement includes transportation within the continent. Prince Ali cited the example of a nation such as the Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands which struggle with transportation on match days.

Though the larger FAs such as India and China receive more attention, Prince Ali noted: “My emphasis is on the countries that might not necessarily get that attention – communicate with them, and assist them with achieving their goals.”

Vision for Qatar 2022 World Cup
One nation already receiving increased attention in terms of footballing development is Qatar, which shocked the world by winning 2022 FIFA World Cup hosting rights last December. Prince Ali is backing the Gulf state to deliver on their promises. But he spoke of his wish that the hosts will “incorporate” the region in the first World Cup to be hosted in the Middle East.

“I do believe it’s a great thing – it can be a wonderful opportunity to improve themselves," he said.

“It’s a long way away to do so. They have the means and capabilities to prepare for it. I think that they need to encompass the region as a start and then the continent as a whole.”

Concerns have been raised about the searing desert heat for a summer World Cup in Qatar. UEFA president Michel Platini has reiterated recently his desire that the tournament be moved to the winter months to accommodate players and fans.

In response, Prince Ali said: “If there was any possibility of moving it to the winter – they played the Asia Cup in Qatar in the winter and it was perfect for me – however it’s their choice and their decision.

"What’s most important is that those who are against the idea do not use this to reopen the bid. That’s all I care about. I think they have the ability to host it in the summer so let it be a debate that goes on. It could be fine.”

In addition to Asian confederation developments, Prince Ali revealed some details about his personal concept - the Asian Football Development Project - which will be launched in January.

Independent of FIFA and the AFC, the project will “make a significant contribution to the further development of Asia's member associations by bridging the gap between governmental agendas and football programmes".

He added: “In turn this will enable member associations to consider the environment in which they are operating, to then go beyond football to grow the game in their countries. When it is launched we will have a clear outline of the goals we want to reach in Asia in the next four years.”

Football needs more charity
Prince Ali also declared that “football needs more charity.”

Explaining this idea, he suggested that players approaching the end of their careers should go out to lesser-developed footballing nations to share their expertise and passion for the game at grassroots level.

“Didier Drogba [of Chelsea] does a lot of work in the Ivory Coast but I want to see a Drogba in Cambodia, in Laos and so on," Prince Ali said.

"What is one month, or even two weeks to these players who earn so much? It’s about giving something back and sharing their love for the game they have played so well at.”

He added: “But it must come from the players themselves. You cannot have agents going with them or have it as PR exercise; the passion must come from the player and just himself.

“FIFA already does a lot of charity work but it needs more, and that is what I am working towards bringing.”

Prince Ali happily called for a review of his performance as a FIFA Ex-Co member in four years’ time at the end of his first term, saying: “I’m just going to try my hardest and do the best possible job I can.

"I want to show an example by being open.

“Now is the time to move on – judge us in four years. Let’s move ahead.”

By INSIDER's Christian Radnedge

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