Fifa is facing calls to publish the "integrity checks" it carried out on its presidential candidates after the front runner was once again accused of doing nothing to protect players and coaches involved in 2011's anti-government protests in Bahrain. Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa is the 4/7 odds on favourite to win the top job in football's governing body after former Fifa president Sepp Blatter was banned for eight years for a "disloyal payment" of £1.3m ($1.87m) to UEFA president Michel Platini, who was suspended for the same period.
But ahead of 27 February's vote by Fifa's 209 member associations, Salman, the president of the Asian Football Confederation and a member of Bahrain's royal family, has been accused of heading up an investigatory committee to identify footballers, coaches and athletes that took part in 2011's pro-democracy demonstrations.and
More than 150 were jailed, after a special committee identified them from photos of the protests, according to The Associated Press. Among six members of the national team who were reportedly arrested, was striker and captain A'ala Hubail — nicknamed the Golden Boy — and his brother Mohamed.
Arrest a 'cost of fame'
A'ala, who was imprisoned for three months after the protests, said in 2011: "I won't forget the experience which I went through. What happened to me was a cost of fame. Participating in the athletes' rally was not a crime."
His brother, Mohamed, claimed he was blindfolded, handcuffed and kicked and beaten with hoses relentlessly by the police.
Calling for integrity checks to be made public, Conservative MP Damian Collins – a leading light in the NewFIFAnow campaign said details of his integrity check should be made public.
"Fifa have been asked about the checks they have carried out and have refused to comment, other than to say he has passed," he told The Sunday Times, adding that Salman "did nothing" to prevent the government's actions against the players and did not speak out.
His views echoed those of Jordan's Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein, a rival for the top job, who was defeated by Blatter in May 2015.
"The simple, basic fact of the matter is that person did not protect or stick up for his players at that time," he told a news conference earlier this month.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron also told the IB Times UK that "public confidence in Fifa has shattered."
He said: "All candidates for the top job must work to eradicate corruption and I welcome any efforts to ensure that happens."
Failure to protect footballers
Nicholas McGeehan, the Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates researcher at Human Rights Watch, has also said that Salman "should have known what was going on in the country".
"Thousands of people were rounded up," he told The Sun. "Five people were tortured to death in detention. People were shot dead in the street. These were not allegations — they are established fact. So why is he setting up a committee which would put his own footballers at risk of that sort of treatment?"
For his part Salman has always denied the claims made against him and his lawyers Shillings & Co said in a statement last year that the fact-finding committee it was proposed he lead in relation to the 2011 events "was never formally established".
"Sheikh Salman had absolutely no involvement in the identification, investigation, prosecution or mistreatment of any individuals", they added.