Football

UEFA's Platini delays talks on FIFA election plans

ASTANA, Kazakhstan (AP) — UEFA President Michel Platini has pushed back his deadline to decide if he will run for FIFA president next year.

Platini told UEFA's 54 member federations on Thursday he will discuss the 2015 FIFA and UEFA elections at a round of regional meetings with their leaders. The sessions are scheduled across Europe between September and December.

"I will be there to listen to you, as usual, and we can then take decisions together," Platini said in French to a UEFA Congress audience that included FIFA President Sepp Blatter. "As these concern you first and foremost," Platini told European football leaders in his keynote speech, "we will discuss them all together at (executive program) meetings after the summer. "

Last September, Platini told a European football meeting in Dubrovnik, Croatia, that he would decide his FIFA intentions "during or after the World Cup in Brazil." Blatter is expected to seek a fifth four-year term at the May 2015 election in Zurich.

Blatter said last month he will run "if the member associations asked me." That could happen on June 11 at FIFA's congress in Sao Paulo on the eve of the opening World Cup match. Platini, a FIFA vice president, has led UEFA since 2007 and has long been seen as the natural successor to the 78-year-old Blatter, who was his mentor in football politics.

Still, Blatter has shown little sign of fulfilling a promise made at the 2011 UEFA Congress in Paris that his current term in office would be his last. Blatter said of Platini in his speech to UEFA members Thursday that "sometimes we have not (had) the same ideas ... but we keep that friendship."

The next UEFA presidential election will be held in March 2015 in Vienna, Austria. In their speeches, Platini and Blatter referred to each other as "dear friends," yet also chided each other from the stage.

When Platini recalled advice from Blatter in Paris three years ago that UEFA should show more solidarity with world football, he seemed to remind the FIFA chief of his election pledge. "As you know, when you look us Europeans in the eye and tell us something, you can be sure that we will be listening carefully," Platini said.

Earlier, Blatter pointed out that FIFA anti-corruption reforms to create independent ethics and audit committees had not been adopted elsewhere. "Decisions taken by the FIFA Congress have to be implemented in the national associations. This concerns also the confederations," Blatter said.

Platini made one direct challenge to Blatter on the subject of investors owning players' economic rights. UEFA wants the practice banned as a threat to transfer market integrity and a drain of cash from the sport.

FIFA has so far declined decisive action against third-party ownership, which is widely used in South America, Spain and Portugal. "Please have the political courage to deal with this problem once and for all," Platini said, making a "solemn request" to Blatter.

"The amount of money that vanishes into thin air in a single transfer exceeds the entire annual budget for your global solidarity program," Platini said, referring to FIFA's annual $30 million spending on development projects. "Do you consider that normal? I, for one, do not."

Stressing UEFA's co-operation with the other five continental football bodies — as Blatter suggested in 2011 — Platini set out increased commitment to social issues. Europe's top football official said a new children's foundation would use UEFA's wealth to help finance programs for young people around the world.

Platini said UEFA will help women and people from ethnic minorities train for management roles in football bodies. A planned conference in Rome in September will "develop the educational arm of our anti-racism strategy," Platini said.

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