ZURICH (AP) — FIFA decided Tuesday to stick with its presidential election date in February, as uncertainty surrounded Michel Platini's candidacy and Asia's top soccer official edged closer to entering the race.
With no clear timetable for Platini to challenge his provisional suspension, officials who have supported the UEFA leader's presidential campaign — such as Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa must now decide whether to also apply by Monday's deadline.
Tuesday's FIFA executive committee meeting was the first since FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Platini were provisionally suspended two weeks ago.
Blatter had already announced plans to resign before being banned for 90 days amid a FIFA ethics investigation over a 2011 payment of $2 million to Platini.
The executive committee confirmed Tuesday that FIFA will go ahead with the election on Feb. 26. The decision came after an update from election monitor Domenico Scala, whose committee rules on the candidates' eligibility.
Platini submitted his candidacy ahead of the Oct. 26 deadline but faces being kept out over a payment of 2 million Swiss francs (about $2 million) from FIFA for work he says was carried out at least nine years earlier.
Platini has challenged his suspension and is awaiting the verdict of the FIFA appeals committee. UEFA is pushing for a swift decision in appeals at FIFA and possibly the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Sheikh Salman, the Asian Football Confederation president from Bahrain, should now enter the race as part of an agreement with UEFA, his key backer told The Associated Press.
"It is a big possibility," Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, a FIFA executive committee member from Kuwait and longtime Olympic powerbroker, said after a meeting of the ruling panel.
Sheikh Salman has also written to his AFC executive committee members saying he has "recently been urged by a growing number of senior" people within the game to run for the FIFA presidency. The Bahraini royal was seeking advice from colleagues before making a decision.
UEFA officials held regular strategy talks with Sheikh Ahmad ahead of Tuesday's emergency FIFA session, which was briefed on Platini's status as a potential candidate.
FIFA said its election oversight committee will not rule on Platini's eligibility as a candidate — including a mandatory integrity check — until "such a ban be lifted or expire before the FIFA presidential election."
Sheikh Ahmad said confidential talks had taken place about what to do if Platini is cleared to be a candidate
"At least there (are) some names and there is understanding between the continents," the sheikh said. "Myself, I trust Platini."
Aside from Platini, former FIFA vice president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan and former Trinidad and Tobago player David Nakhid have said they have submitted their five required federation nominations.
The FIFA crisis, which was sparked by the arrest of soccer officials in Zurich ahead of Blatter's re-election in May, led to a reform process being instigated to overhaul how the organization is run.
The reform commission said Tuesday it was proposing a 12-year term limit for FIFA presidents and an age limit of 74 for the president and executives.
The committee also recommended that the annual pay of the president and executives be made public. The tainted executive committee be renamed as the "FIFA Council."
Any changes have to be approved by all 209 FIFA members at the Feb. 26 congress.