Sports

Asia adopts FIFA election rule, clears Sheik Ahmad to stand

Emirati football player Omar Abdulrahman, right, receives the AFC player of year award from Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Chairman of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, middle, at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Emirati football player Omar Abdulrahman, right, receives the AFC player of year award from Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Chairman of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, middle, at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The Asian Football Confederation has confirmed a rule for elections to FIFA Council seats, allowing Olympic powerbroker Sheik Ahmad of Kuwait to be a candidate.

Elections in May for FIFA positions will be "conducted under the terms of the FIFA regulations which allows any member association to nominate a candidate," the AFC said on Thursday after an executive committee meeting.

That is different from AFC election rules which require that candidates "shall be proposed by his football association."

Kuwait's national soccer body is barred from nominating candidates while suspended by FIFA in a dispute over government interference.

Sheik Ahmad has continued his duties for FIFA and the IOC, which also suspended Kuwait last year, as an individual while the dispute between the government and sports bodies has continued.

The AFC previously said the seat held by Sheik Ahmad would be for another two-year mandate rather than the usual four-year term.

The elections being held in Bahrain were originally scheduled in September, then delayed twice. Three more seats on the 37-member FIFA Council must also be filled in polls of FIFA's member federations in Asia.

The AFC executive committee also hopes to launch a competitive bidding process next year for the commercial rights to its competitions from 2021 onward.

The current eight-year deal awarded by previous AFC leadership to Singapore-based World Sports Group without an open tender was criticized as undervalued.

"It is very important that we have a transparent process to choose the right model and partner for our next cycle," AFC President Sheik Salman said in a statement.

The 2013-2020 master rights deal for AFC competitions was valued at $1 billion with at least $600 million coming to the Asian soccer body then led by Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar.

However, after Bin Hammam was banned by FIFA, an AFC-appointed review of its finances by accountancy firm Pricewaterhouse Cooper said "no financial due diligence was performed" before the rights deal was agreed in 2009.

The WSG agency has since been brought under the banner of its French-based parent group as Lagardere Sports.

On Thursday, the AFC also launched an integrity project called "Do the right thing," with renewed commitment to encourage whistleblowers.

Sheik Salman said the Kuala Lumpur-based AFC wanted member federations to help identify and recruit a head of integrity. That hiring should be confirmed at the May election meeting in Bahrain.

The executive meeting was held ahead of the annual Asian soccer awards gala, held in Abu Dhabi.