Five candidates enter FIFA presidency race, Platini sidelined

FIFA has approved five candidates for its February presidential election amid the worst crisis in its history

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FIFA has approved five candidates for its February presidential election amid the worst crisis in its history, after barring Liberia’s Musa Bility on integrity grounds and leaving out UEFA chief Michel Platini while he remains under suspension.

Platini, the original favorite to succeed Sepp Blatter as head of global soccer’s governing body, was not admitted because he has been suspended for 90 days pending a full Ethics Committee investigation.

FIFA had already announced that it would not process former French international football star while he was suspended, but could review its position if he wins an appeal against the ban.

Buffeted by a series of scandals over the last few years, FIFA was thrown into turmoil in May by the U.S. indictments of 14 football officials, including two FIFA vice-presidents, and sports marketing executives for alleged corruption.

Blatter, also suspended for 90 days, is facing criminal investigation in Switzerland over a 2 million Swiss franc ($2.1 million) payment from FIFA to Platini. Both men have denied wrongdoing.

FIFA’s electoral committee said on Thursday the five approved presidential candidates were Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, Asian Football Confederation President Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, former FIFA official Jerome Champagne of France, UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino of Switzerland and South Africa businessman Tokyo Sexwale.

“The integrity check included a review of corporate records, litigation cases, bankruptcy proceedings, potential regulatory actions taken against the candidate and a review of media reports concerning potential red flags (fraudulent behavior, match manipulation, human rights violations, etc.),” the committee said in a statement.

Bility was not admitted “in view of the content of the integrity check report relating to him”, it said.

“For reasons of protection of personality rights, the Ad-hoc Electoral Committee – while it has explained its considerations in detail to Musa Hassan Bility – will not comment publicly on the specifics of its decision.”

Salman has dismissed as “false, nasty lies” allegations that he was involved in human rights abuses against pro-democracy activists during a 2011 uprising in Bahrain when he was head of the Gulf Arab country’s football association.