AFC unable to replace Bin Hammam until May

KUALA LUMPUR - The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) cannot elect a replacement for banned president Mohammad Bin Hammam until after May 30 next year, the regional organisation's legal committee said on Friday.

Football's governing body FIFA slapped a life ban on Bin Hammam at the conclusion of a two-day FIFA Ethics Committee hearing last Saturday for attempting to bribe Caribbean officials during his withdrawn presidential challenge to incumbent Sepp Blatter.

The 62-year-old Bin Hammam, who was originally suspended by FIFA on May 29, has written to the AFC Executive Committee saying he would not resign his position and the panel seemed in no hurry to replace the Qatari.

"The members were informed that the legal committee is in agreement that an Extraordinary Congress for the election of president may be convened in the event that the office of president falls vacant for more than one year," the AFC said on its website after a marathon executive committee meeting.

"This means that an Extraordinary Congress for this purpose could not be convened until after 30 May, 2012."

At the end of the five-and-half-hour meeting, acting president Zhang Jilong of China stressed that unity and solidarity would see the organisation through the crisis.

"Today everybody is looking to us for leadership and assurance. Our fans and sponsors want to be reassured that Asian football will not be affected by this great misfortune, and that the 'Future is indeed Asia'," he said.

"I think the meeting was very good for the future of Asia. We are united in solidarity under the leadership of Mr Jilong," Executive Committee members Kohzo Tashima told Reuters.

However, the general secretary of Japan Football Association acknowledged the challenges ahead.

"It's a very bad, a terrible situation for AFC. Of course Mr Bin Hammam has the right to appeal to CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sports) and of course we respect him but corruption, match-fixing and doping... we have a lot of problems and we would like to be a better AFC for the future.

"Mr Jilong... has a lot of will to change the AFC," he said.

The Executive Committee also recommended a joint AFC-FIFA task force to tackle match-fixing, which has engulfed South Korea's professional K-League in particular.

It was informed that FIFA was considering opening a temporary 12-month security office in Bangkok, Thailand next year.