KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) – FIFA vice president Prince Ali Al Hussein said the Asian Football Confederation must get on with business despite uncertainty over the reign of banned president Mohammed bin Hammam.
Prince Ali, a member of the AFC's executive committee, said he was happy with a meeting of the regional body Friday that resulted in calls by top officials for unity in the wake of a life ban on bin Hammam amid allegations of bribery in the FIFA presidential election.
The AFC committee decided there was no need for an immediate extraordinary congress or election to replace bin Hammam, who denies the bribery charges and is appealing his life ban to FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
He has refused to quit as AFC president while his appeal is ongoing.
AFC statutes only allow the position of president to be vacant for one year, so an extraordinary congress and election must be held if bin Hammam's appeals aren't resolved by May 29, 2012. China's Zhang Jilong will be the AFC's acting president until then.
''I don't have any concerns regarding the issue of the AFC presidency,'' Prince Ali said in an email to The Associated Press. ''It was evident from our Friday meeting that (Zhang) as acting president has the support of the majority of the executive committee, including myself.''
The prince reiterated his opinion that bin Hammam has ''every right'' to appeal his ban.
''That's his own personal decision. However, any responsible person would recognize the need for AFC as an institution to move on, progress and evolve,'' Prince Ali said. ''I believe that's the desire of the majority of the executive committee.''
Bin Hammam has denied accusations he gave cash to Caribbean officials in exchange for supporting his bid to become FIFA president and contends that the allegations were made because he was a threat to Sepp Blatter's re-election to soccer's highest job.
In a letter on AFC-headed paper, bin Hammam urged Asian members last week to be patient while he appeals. Four days later, the AFC executive took the advice of its legal committee and decided to proceed with caution.
Nevertheless, under the AFC statutes, the executive committee would be obliged to set a time and date for an extraordinary congress within 60 days if it receives a particular request from one-third of the 46 member associations.
Prince Ali wouldn't rule out the possibility of an election before next May, saying that if it became necessary the AFC ''would of course reconsider and look at other legal options especially if it is in the best interest of football in Asia.''
Prince Ali and delegates who met Friday also agreed to form a committee to ''assess the current situation and advise and guide the AFC acting president in the business of the confederation.''
He said Zhang has the mandate to choose members of the ad hoc committee, which he said ''must begin its work immediately'' on three fronts - fighting corruption, boosting the AFC's administrative professionalism and ensuring financial transparency on all levels.