FIFA will hold a special election on February 26 to replace president Sepp Blatter, football’s scandal-tainted world body said Monday as French football great Michel Platini moved closer to launching a campaign.

The FIFA executive, including rivals Blatter and Platini, agreed the date at a meeting in Zurich where the “exraordinary elective FIFA congress” will be held.

Blatter announced on June 2, four days after winning a fifth term as president, that he would stand down as a major corruption storm hit world football’s ruling body.

The decision was a victory for Blatter who had wanted the vote pushed back until 2016. UEFA and some other regional bodies had sought a December election.

Blatter was to announce at a later press conference whether the executive committee agreed to first reform measures for the multi-billion dollar body.

FIFA is still reeling from the arrest of seven officials at a Zurich congress two days before Blatter won reelection on May 29.

The seven are among 14 people — soccer officials andsports business executives — accused by US authorities over more than $150 million in bribes paid to secure television and marketing contracts for football tournaments.

Former FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb appeared in a New York court on Saturday after being extradited from Switzerland last week. He denied bribery charges but was only released on $10 million bail.

Swiss authorities are in parallel investigating the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

– Candidates gather –

Candidates for the FIFA presidency have until October 26 to put their names forward.

So far only Brazilian football great Zico has officially declared himself. But Platini is considered the favourite to take over if he decides to stand.

Platini will decide in the next two weeks whether to run, a source close to the UEFA leadership said.

The 60-year-old Frenchman is closing on a campaign after getting verbal support from four of the six regional confederations that make up football’s world body, the source told AFP.

Only the Confederation of African Football (CAF) — led by Blatter ally Issa Hiyatou — and the Oceania confederation is not backing Platini.

The UEFA leader has made increasing calls for reform of the world body in recent months. These have been heightened since the raid on the Zurich hotel to detain the seven FIFA officials.

“He is seriously considering running. He will make a decision in the next two weeks maximum and then make an announcement,” the source said.

If Platini, now in his third term as president of Europe’s UEFA, decides not to stand he could reveal who he will back in the election.

“Platini knows that the decision must be taken quckly to close the door against any other challenger,” the source said. 

Platini backed Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, a former FIFA vice president from Jordan, when he stood against Blatter in May. The prince could again be a candidate in February’s election.

Chung Mong-Joon, another former FIFA member from South Korea, is also considering a run.

Brazilian football great and former sports minister Zico has already said he will stand. Argentine football legend Diego Maradona has also indicated he is ready to join a campaign.

European football leaders say Platini has been consulting widely about whether to stand in the election. This was confirmed by the source.

“He has been listening to a lot of people and weighing up everything they have said about FIFA’s future. He has been very touched by the warm comments of support he has had.

“But sometimes statements that are made are not worth as much as they should be,” the source warned to explain the UEFA chief’s hesitation.

Platini will also assess the level of support at the draw for the World Cup qualifying tournaments which is to be made in St Petersburg, Russia on Saturday. – Agence France-Presse

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