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FIFA hasn't changed since Blatter era, says Prince Ali

Cars drive past a logo in front of FIFA's headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland June 8, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/Files
Cars drive past a logo in front of FIFA's headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland June 8, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/Files

By Simon Evans

MANAMA (Reuters) - FIFA President Gianni Infantino has failed to change the way the organisation is run, according to Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, a former candidate for world soccer's top job.

Infantino replaced Sepp Blatter at the helm of the sport's global ruling body in February 2016, with Prince Ali among the defeated candidates.

At FIFA's annual congress on Thursday, Infantino declared "New FIFA is a transparent organisation....it is a deeply honest organisation".

But shortly after the end of the congress, which included little debate about a series of issues and unopposed electoral slates of committees elected by over 95 percent of the delegates, Prince Ali told reporters that the organisation remained in deep trouble.

"I think it is fairly obvious that a lot of things have not changed," Prince Ali said.

"I am not going to judge anyone but what I will say is that the system, the way business is are conducted is the same. I don’t see the refreshing change, the openness, the transparency that everybody talks about really taking effect on the ground," said Ali, who is the Jordanian Football Association president.

On Tuesday, the FIFA Council opted against renewing the mandate of its two leading Ethics officials who had handled the expulsion of a series of officials involved in corruption allegations.

The pair were replaced at congress with two nominations made by the FIFA Council, headed by Infantino.

Prince Ali said that move had been a mistake.

"Obviously, their term ran out but, having said that, they are in the middle of conducting their cases and what this is going to do is delay the process.

"To be honest if it not broken, don’t fix it. There seem to be many reasons we are hearing about why it is done but we were not given an explanation and that is the basic right of congress to know what the reasons are behind the changes – that reminds me of things that have happened in the past," he said.

Asked whether, with U.S and Swiss authorities still investigating the body, Infantino's actions represented a danger to FIFA, Prince Ali said: “I think so. It has already lost the battle of public opinion, we had a good chance to rebuild that and we need to, this is the world we live in – things cannot be conducted behind closed doors, everyone wants to know what is going on."

Prince Ali is also concerned about the tone taken by Infantino over the Ethics case and other issues.

"We are in a crisis, you can't have a FIFA president who says everything is fine, as we have heard before, when obviously it is not," he said.

"Every other week something new comes to light and there are very serious allegations."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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