Dutch FA chief Michael van Praag has unveiled his manifesto in his bid to replace Sepp Blatter as FIFA president.
Van Praag says he wants to increase the number of World Cup finalists. He also wants to give more money to individual federations – pledging an annual figure of $1 million, four times the current $250,000 – and make football’s world governing body more transparent and accountable.
All noble aspirations and all promised by rival candidate Luis Figo, when he launched his campaign manifesto at Wembley last month.
Van Praag spoke before travelling to Paraguay to lobby for support at the CONMEBOL Congress where it is expected Figo and Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, the other two contenders hoping to defeat Blatter in May’s election, will be doing the same.
Van Praag also says he would ensure full publication of Michael Garcia’s report into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, rather than a redacted version, if he is elected president. The legality of such a move remain questionable, though, as many witnesses spoke under the guarantee of confidentiality.
Van Praag says he would publish Garcia’s report “as soon as possible”. “When you act normally, you have nothing to hide,” he said.
The Dutchman, whose campaign is being funded by his country’s FA, also promised to limit his presidency to one four-year term.
Van Praag explained how the World Cup will be increased to 40 teams from the current 32. It will include an extra team from every confederation, a tactic he will hope gains backing from across the globe. One wonders where it will end, though. Four years from now, can we expect FIFA presidential candidates to be offering 48 or 64 team finals in exchange for support? Quite possibly.
“The development of football throughout the world would be better served by a larger World Cup competition, with proportionally more countries from outside Europe (and South America),” says his manifesto. “When FIFA was founded in 1904, it was precisely for that reason – to boost the popularity and speed up the development of the game. So this step is just as logical as it is necessary.”
Van Praag is also in favour of utilising technology to help match officials.
When controversial incidents occur, “we cannot expect our referees to be the only people in the stadium who can’t replay that moment,” he said.
Inevitably, given the pounding its reputation has taken in recent years, FIFA’s credibility is at the heart of the Dutchman’s campaign.
“As president, I will set up a so-called ‘presidents’ board’, with the presidents of all the confederations. This board will help take decisions on important matters and in doing so, give FIFA and its structure its credibility back,” he said.
“Under my leadership, the ExCo will publish and explain decisions after every meeting.
“We see that the stream of negative reports about our FIFA continues. We see reports that are quashed. We see films by and about FIFA which cost €20 million to produce. And we see continuing stories around the allocation of World Cup. That’s not my world football body, that’s not the way the sport to which I owe so much, should be portrayed. Normalisation, that’s the key word. The organisation must go back to being plain normal.”
It doesn’t seem too much to ask.