Vienna: Sepp Blatter on Tuesday listened as his rivals for the FIFA presidency accused his leadership of being authoritarian, not spending enough of its wealth and tarnishing the world body`s image.
Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, a FIFA vice president from Jordan, former Portugal star Luis Figo and Dutch federation Michel van Praag made their first face-to-face statements to the 79-year-old leader in a special debate at the UEFA congress.
Blatter refused to take part, but listened in the front row of the congress. Despite the opposition in Europe, Blatter is still favourite to win reelection on May 29.
"We need a change of culture and a departure from FIFA`s authoritarian approach to strategy," said the 39-year-old prince.
"We are in a crucial time for football," he told the Congress. "Both inside and outside the football family, people have expressed concern about the way football is run."
Figo said he would not get involved in a personal campaign against Blatter.
But he said: "FIFA should not be dependent on a president. That is not healthy in any organisation or company."
"You all need to be more present in FIFA life," Figo said to the leaders of the 54 European federations at the meeting.
Figo said FIFA`s minimum annual payment to the 209 member federations should be increased from $300,000 to three million dollars. FIFA reported revenue of more than five billion dollars over the past four years. But it has been drawn into a storm of controversy over the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
"The beautiful heritage of international football has been tarnished by ever continuing accusations of corruption, bribery, nepotism and waste of money," said van Praag.
"The current state of disarray asks for a change of leadership," he added the Dutchman who said he would only serve one four year term as a transitional leader.
"I simply cannot accept that we leave FIFA in its current shape for the next generation," said van Praag.
Blatter spoke to the UEFA congress only at the start of the meeting in the traditional speech as FIFA president. He made an appeal for unity without mentioning the looming election.