Thorsteinsson withdrawal leaves UEFA one person short for FIFA Council spots

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By Andrew Warshaw

March 13 – New eligibility rules laid down by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has led to one of the European contenders for FIFA’s ruling Council to pull out of the running, inadvertently causing a major administrative snafu.

Under Ceferin’s plan to make UEFA’s governance more watertight and credible, last month UEFA’s executive committee ruled that candidates for senior positions must hold an active office in their respective national association – specifically president, vice-president, general secretary or CEO.

That has caused a rethink for Iceland’s Geir Thorsteinsson who has now decided to withdraw his FIFA Council candidacy. Thorsteinsson used to be chairman of the Icelandic football association but was recently succeeded by former Icelandic international Gudni Bergsson.

Ironically, Thorsteinsson’s election to FIFA’s inner circle seemed to have become a formality only last Friday when Russian supremo Vitaly Mutko was himself forced to withdraw from the European ballot after failing an eligibility test conducted by FIFA’s review committee because of conflicting sporting and political interests.

Mutko’s removal should have meant a clear run for the four other contenders going for the four available four-year slots:  Sandor Csyani (Hungary), Costakis Koutsokoumnis (Cyprus), Dejan Savicevic (Montenegro) and Thorsteinsson, with Germany’s Reinhard Grindel  the only candidate for the vacant two-year position.

But now the whole landscape has changed with UEFA finding itself in exactly the same position as Africa, with one FIFA Council place remaining unfilled after the voting at its regional congress in Helsinki in early April. That will almost certainly mean having to organise an additional extraordinary congress – just to elect one more representative – before or after the FIFA Congress in Bahrain, in May.

Thorsteinsson was quoted in Iceland as saying: “Although I have not been directly ruled out I do not now think I should be entitled to join the FIFA Council.

“UEFA’s executive committee has proposed an amendment to rules for elections so that in the future the only people eligible to stand should be the chairmen, vice-chairmen and chief executives of national associations.

“This is a proposal for congress from UEFA which, I understand, enjoys great support among the various European football associations. Therefore I decided it would be appropriate to step back now I am no longer a chairman myself.”

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