VIENNA (Reuters) - FIFA presidential candidate Michael van Praag said on Monday he was “very disappointed” a television debate with the other challengers had been abandoned because incumbent Sepp Blatter refused to take part.
Van Praag, in a four-way fight for the presidency with Blatter, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan and Luis Figo of Portugal, added that he had welcomed the TV proposal from the BBC and Sky Sports in co-operation with NOS, the Dutch public broadcasting service.
UEFA also offered the candidates a chance to address members at its Congress on Tuesday but Blatter refused and will only make a speech in his role as president of world football’s governing body at the start of proceedings.
“For clarity and to avoid misunderstandings the purest way to know what all the four people think and what they want and like and dislike, is such a debate,” said Van Praag.
“I am very disappointed it won’t take place. I welcomed it very much. I only had one condition to the BBC and that was to make a co-production with NOS who proposed it first,” said the 67-year-old Dutch FA chairman.
“But just because he won’t come, doesn’t meant there won’t be a debate over the next few months. We will all talk and give interviews.”
Asked if he thought the Swiss incumbent had nothing to gain and everything to lose by having a TV debate, Van Praag said: “Maybe that is right but I would have to look into the head of Mr Blatter for why he doesn’t want to do it.
“He will be here tomorrow, you should ask him.”
Earlier, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino confirmed European football’s ruling body had offered the candidates the chance to address delegates at the Congress but only Blatter refused.
“Mr Blatter is free to decide whatever he wants,” said Infantino. “We proposed to him, as well as to the other three candidates, to take the floor at our Congress and tell our members what they wanted to tell them.
“But Mr Blatter has decided that he is going to speak only as FIFA president and not as one of the candidates. The associations can decide for themselves whether they think President Blatter has shown them a lack of respect.”
The presidential election will take place on May 29 at the FIFA Congress in Zurich.
Editing by Tony Jimenez