Price Ali claim suggests the fight for Fifa presidency may turn nasty.

FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein has accused one of his rivals, Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, of failing to protect players.

Sheikh Salman is a member of the Bahrain royal family and has attracted attention from human rights organisation, the Bahrain Institue for Rights and Democarcy (BIRD), due to the regime’s role in the suppression of the country’s pro-democracy demonstrations in 2011, which saw some footballers imprisoned and allegedly tortured.

He has always denied any involvement and issued a statement recently dismissing the claims as ‘entirely false’.

“The allegations are entirely false and categorically denied by Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa,” read the statement. “While it was proposed that Sheikh Salman lead a fact- finding committee in relation to the events of 2011, that committee was never formally established and never conducted any business whatsoever.

“For the record, and in light of the recycling of historic allegations in the media, Sheikh Salman had absolutely no involvement in the identification, “politicised punishment”, detention or mistreatment of any individuals as has been alleged.”

Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa

Sheikh-Salman-bin-Ebrahim-Al-Khalifa has always denied being involved in the crackdown of dissent.

However, Prince Ali has revived the issue with a thinly-veiled attack on Sheik Salman, by telling a news conference in Geneva: “The simple, basic fact of the matter is that person did not protect or stick up for his players at that time.”

Prince Ali’s comments will intensify the rivalry between the two Asian candidates ahead of the election of Sepp Blatter’s successor on February 26. Three other candidates, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, France’s Jerome Champagne and Tokyo Sexwale of South Africa are also standing.

If elected, Prince Ali insisted he would ensure that FIFA underwent a complete transformation and promised an end to the system of patronage that has underpinned football’s governing body for decades.

He added: “This election will determine whether a small group of powerful individuals will hold FIFA hostage.”