ZURICH – Sheikh Salman raised the stakes in the FIFA presidential election Tuesday by contending that rival Gianni Infantino's plan to significantly increase cash payouts to federations would bankrupt football's troubled governing body as it faces a $560 million deficit.
Although FIFA reported cash reserves of $1.523 billion in 2014, far-reaching criminal investigations into football officials over the last year have thwarted attempts to replace sponsors, and legal fees have escalated as the organization tries to avoid being dragged down by the scandals.
FIFA is not scheduled to publish its 2015 financial report until next month, but Sheikh Salman — a member of its finance committee — revealed the expected losses for the 2015-18 World Cup cycle in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press ahead of Friday's election to succeed Sepp Blatter.
"The expected deficit for the next four years is 560 (million dollars) — this is going to be withdrawn from the reserves," Salman, a Bahraini royal, told the AP. "If you are a chair of a company that is making losses and you say you are going to distribute dividends to your shareholders, it doesn't make sense."
In his campaign program, Sheikh Salman has pledged to only distribute FIFA funds for specific football projects in countries most in need of assistance. But Infantino has committed to offering each of FIFA's 209 members $5 million to invest in development projects and running costs — a huge increase on the $2.05 million per federation from 2011-14 — on top of other payouts.
"I think in three years we (FIFA) would be bankrupt — that's how it is," Salman said. "Every person can see this cannot happen. The numbers do not match at all."
"It's not up to the elected president to make such a risky decision as well," he added. "What kind of democracy and what kind of organization should be run by one man?"
If Infantino wins Friday's five-man vote, Salman would try to block the UEFA general secretary from distributing funds as planned.
"If I am not elected as president I will still be a FIFA vice president and I will always do what is right for the organization to maintain that support for other countries as well," Salman said.
Salman, who is also Asian Football Confederation president, disclosed that he already has new commercial backers lined up.
"I know a few sponsors that are ready which are not signed a contract yet who are ready to sign once I'm elected," Salman said.
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