AP News

European soccer head upset over delay on reforms


PORT LOUIS, Mauritius (AP) — The head of European soccer's governing body is frustrated by the delay to reforms over age and term limits for senior FIFA officials.

UEFA President Michel Platini suggested politics was at play and said he was not happy his confederation had been painted as an opponent to change. He spoke Thursday after a UEFA meeting and hours before the ceremonial opening of FIFA's annual congress.

A debate and possible vote on age and term limits was put back to 2014 this week by the executive committee for soccer's international organization. That removed from this this year's agenda a matter that could affect whether 77-year-old FIFA President Sepp Blatter seeks another term beyond 2015.

"Perhaps there is some politics inside FIFA ... but if they don't want (the reforms), then they are not to say that it is Europe who stop the reform," Platini said. "That is my point to you. Because we followed (the reforms) from the beginning. The rest is politics."

Blatter, who attended Thursday's UEFA meeting briefly, said this would be his last term when he was re-elected to the presidency in 2011 — a year when criticism of FIFA reached a crescendo over corruption allegations relating to the presidential vote and the choice of Russia and Qatar to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

But the Swiss soccer leader has hinted that he may seek re-election in 2015 for another four-year term through to 2019, when he will be 83.

Platini repeated Europe's stance that it was in favor of the age and term limits, in certain forms, and was exasperated with how long it was taking FIFA to settle the issue, which is one of three reform areas not being addressed at this congress.

That has led to more criticism that the world body's senior figures are putting off some changes meant to make FIFA more transparent and accountable.

"It is two years that we speak about (age and term limit reforms)," Platini said. "And the postponement. In two years, do you think there will be an agreement?"

When asked if he thought there would be an agreement on the age and term limits at the 2014 congress in Brazil, Platini — who is expected to be a future challenger for the FIFA presidency — replied: "No. Because it concerns Blatter, it concerns me, it concerns the age, it concerns people of 83 years. It concerns the people who are judge and jury."

On leaving the UEFA meeting, Blatter referred to the European confederation as a "good organization" and underlined FIFA's democratic processes through the voting at congress of its 209 member countries. But that democracy, he added, also can make it easy to delay taking decisions.

"Everyone is allowed to vote for what he wants. That's democracy at FIFA," Blatter said.

But when the FIFA Congress gets down to business on Friday, member countries won't vote on three areas of reform: limiting senior officials' age and terms, revealing their salaries and bonuses and allowing independent observers on FIFA's executive committee.

FIFA insisted this week it was implementing "the majority" of the reforms recommended by a panel headed by Swiss law professor Mark Pieth. The organization points to its ethics committee, financial structures and process for deciding future World Cup sites as evidence of genuine reform.

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Follow Gerald Imray at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP


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