AFC Scraps 12-Yr Limit, Allows Sheikh Salman To Stay President Till 2027


(MENAFN- IANS) Bangkok, May 16 (IANS) The 34th Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Congress voted to dismantle a cornerstone of their governance reforms-a decision that granted their leaders unlimited years in power. This seismic shift in policy marked a departure from the stringent term limits imposed in the wake of the FIFA corruption crisis of 2015.

Among the voices clamoring for change were the influential footballing nations of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, eager to assert their dominance on the continental stage. Yet, dissent lingered as only Australia and Jordan stood firm in opposition to the sweeping reforms.

At the helm of this transformative agenda stood AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, a figure whose tenure was now free from the shackles of term limits. He secured the opportunity to extend his leadership beyond the previously prescribed boundaries, eyeing re-election in 2027 after already serving 14 years in the office.

However, one legal barrier still remains for Sheikh Salman at FIFA.

The member of the Bahraini royal family informed AFC members before the voting that the AFC aspires to be "a model confederation" in world football, in line with FIFA.

The decision to remove term limits was not without its controversies, dredging up painful memories of past scandals that tarnished the reputation of Asian football. From the bribery allegations surrounding Mohamed bin Hammam to the revelations of corruption within the highest echelons of the AFC, the road to reform had been fraught with challenges.

FIFA has implemented two rounds of governance reforms, including the removal of presidential term restrictions, in reaction to bribery and corruption scandals that occurred in 2011 and 2015, all of which involved Asian football.

Once AFC head Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar received $40,000 in cash in brown envelopes following a campaign meeting in Trinidad, he was disqualified from the 2011 FIFA presidential contest.

Senior AFC official Richard Lai of Guam entered a guilty plea in a federal court in Brooklyn, as part of a bribe-paying operation that increased power in international football, as a result from the 2015 incident two years later. According to Lai, it was controlled by a group in Kuwait that aided Sheikh Salman in becoming Bin Hammam's successor in 2013.

The AFC doubled down on its commitment to ethical standards and governance practices. In a bold statement, they proclaimed their intent to lead by example, setting a precedent for future generations of football administrators.

However, beyond the confines of the AFC, echoes of this decision reverberated throughout the global footballing landscape. With FIFA and UEFA facing their own governance dilemmas, the AFC's move sent a clear message-a message of defiance against the constraints of term limits and a reaffirmation of authority.

The AFC's Member Associations also elected two new members to the AFC executive committee for the remainder of the 2023 to 2027 term.

Mijgona Mahmadalieva from Tajikistan was elected as the female AFC executive committee member for the Central Zone whilst Chung Mong Gyu from the Korea Republic was elected as an AFC executive committee for the East Zone.

Congratulating the two new AFC executive committee members, AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said:“On behalf of the Asian football family, I would like to congratulate Mijgona Mahmadalieva and Chung Mong Gyu on their successful election to the AFC executive committee and we look forward to their invaluable contributions in the coming years.”

Additionally, the Congress also approved the proposals which were received from several member associations to amend/remove (as appropriate) Articles 32.8 and 32.9, as well as one of the Transitory Provisions, of the AFC Statutes.

Shaikh Salman added:“The AFC has made incredible strides in the area of good governance, and we have our Member Associations and Regional Associations to thank for their steadfast dedication to solidify the strong foundations that we have built together over the last decade.

“If we take a moment to reflect on our history, the overwhelming sense of solidarity across the Asian football family has never been stronger, but our commitment to good governance is a lifelong pursuit and I want to assure you that we will never take our position for granted.

“These strong foundations and unity have paved the way for us to deliver our best ever AFC Asian Cup in Qatar and the new club reforms that are set to be introduced later this year, which will revolutionise the Asian club game in the next decade.

“The formation of the AFC Reform Taskforce for the 2023 to 2027 term earlier this year is another clear signal of our intent to ensure that we remain a model Confederation that continues to uphold the highest ethical standards and best governance practices for the future generations of our great game.”

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IANS

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