Gianni Infantino says it is 'now or never' for Fifa before election

By Richard ConwayBBC Radio 5 live sports news correspondent
Gianni Infantino says now or never to reform Fifa

Fifa presidential hopeful Gianni Infantino says it is "now or never" for the future of world football's crisis-hit governing body.

Fifa has been embroiled in a corruption scandal that has resulted in dozens of senior officials being indicted by United States prosecutors.

Infantino says Fifa's image and reputation is "at its worst".

But he says he is the person to put that right if he is chosen to succeed Sepp Blatter in Friday's election.

"We have all witnessed in the past few months sadly what has happened around Fifa," said Uefa's general secretary.

Who will replace Sepp Blatter at Fifa?

"Something needs to be done. Reforms need to be implemented. They need to be voted first and then they have to be implemented.

"If we don't do something now about it, to restore the image of Fifa and the reputation of Fifa - and to increase the development of football in the world - then I see no future for Fifa."

Asked if that would mean Fifa could be shut down, Infantino replied: "No.

"I think football will always exist but as an organisation the way we have lived and perceived Fifa in the past months cannot continue."

Blatter has been Fifa president since 1998 but will be replaced when delegates from 209 member federations meet in Zurich to vote in a successor.

Candidate Prince Ali bin al-Hussein has made an official request for Friday's election to be suspended because he does not think it will be a transparent process.

But Infantino, who faces competition from Prince Ali and three other rivals, says it is almost certain to go ahead as planned.

Infantino is up against:

  • South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale
  • Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa
  • Former Fifa deputy general secretary Jerome Champagne
  • Fifa vice-president for Asia Prince Ali bin-al-Hussein of Jordan

Read more: Blatter's five possible successors

Read more: Fifa election - what you need to know

Blatter will not be present in Zurich after being banned from football for eight years on corruption allegations.

Both Blatter and Uefa boss Michel Platini were suspended in December following an ethics investigation.

They were found guilty of breaches surrounding a £1.3m ($2m) "disloyal payment" made to Platini in 2011.

Blatter denies any wrongdoing and has appealed against his ban, as has Platini, who had been favourite to success the 79-year-old Swiss.

The Fifa corruption crisis explained

Meanwhile, Damian Collins MP has used parliamentary privilege to accuse frontrunner Sheikh Salman of being involved in a "cash for votes" scheme during the 2013 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) election.

Collins has also accused the 50-year-old from Bahrain of using development funds to finance an earlier campaign to get on Fifa's executive committee.

But Sheikh Salman rejected the claims.

He insisted he had "no knowledge" of an "inducements offered" and that there was "absolutely no evidence" to back allegations that his 2009 campaign had been "funded entirely from his own pocket".

Collins is an anti-corruption campaigner on football governance.

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