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Old 23rd March 2011, 12:18   #1
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Default Michel Platini keeps his cards concealed in Fifa's presidential race

Michel Platini keeps his cards concealed in Fifa's presidential race

Uefa president welcomes Mohamed bin Hammam's challenge
Sepp Blatter tells Uefa he will retire in 2015 if he wins

* Owen Gibson in Paris
*, Tuesday 22 March 2011 21.56 GMT

Michel Platini has welcomed Mohamed bin Hammam's challenge to Sepp Blatter as "good for democracy", as the Uefa president emerged as a potential kingmaker in the battle to lead Fifa.

After Uefa's 53 member associations re-elected Platini for another four-year term as president he welcomed the fact that there would be a competitive election at Fifa. "Given there are two candidates for the Fifa election there will be different pledges, pledges for change. It's good to have two candidates," said Platini. "It's good for democracy. There will be different things proposed and it may be a good thing."

The Uefa president, an energetic and sometimes controversial presence in Nyon during a period that has seen the introduction of the financial fair play concept and continued growth of the Champions League, would not be drawn on his own Fifa ambitions. It is thought that Platini harbours ambitions to launch his own bid for the top job at Fifa in 2015.

Bin Hammam has floated the idea of cutting a deal with the Frenchman, while Blatter promised that, should he win, the next four-year term would be his last.

In a speech to the Uefa Congress, in which he attempted to appeal to voters in both Europe and Africa, the 75-year-old Blatter said he would not stand again if he prevailed. "You know very well that I am a candidate for the next four years as Fifa president but these will be the last four years for which I stand as a candidate," he said. "Together we have the task of bringing together the adventure we have started. We want to ensure a better future for our youth."

Platini refused to be drawn on which candidate would win his support but it is thought likely he will back Blatter, given the aligned interests of the pair. He does not have a vote himself but his decision is likely to be a big influence on many of the member associations that do.

"We've just found out that two candidates will run. In 1998 I was only Michel Platini, only thinking of myself and now I'm president of Uefa," he said. "It's something new that there are two candidates. I will have to consult with my colleagues and vice-presidents. I can't speak on my own personal behalf any more."

The two Fifa candidates will spend the next eight weeks wooing the member associations that will decide their fate at Fifa's Congress in Zurich on 1 June. Bin Hammam has deep pockets and would not have run if he did not feel he had a chance of unseating the president while Blatter has been positioning himself for a potential battle for the past 18 months and has a long record of seeing off challengers.

Platini's immediate focus will be on potentially radical talks over the fixture calendar and the introduction of the financial fair play rules that start to bite from next season. "I'm trying to help football not go bankrupt. Look at the banks. If they don't stop, they'll kill themselves. It's a matter of solidarity," said Platini.

Uefa also confirmed it would press ahead with a project to centralise the sale of the TV rights to World Cup and European Championship qualifiers as part of a drive to boost the profile of the international game. The Football Association was the last of Uefa's members to sign up to the scheme after securing important minimum guarantees but now faces a huge challenge to reconcile it with its own FA Cup deals.

The FA had been concerned that it would be left disadvantaged by the plan to centralise sales from 2014 but has succeeded in securing minimum guarantees that will bring in about 25m a year. "We thought it through long and hard and we have got a good deal for ourselves out of it. It is higher than the current valuation of our rights," said the FA general secretary, Alex Horne.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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