Brussels - European parliament deputies on Wednesday hit out at rival candidates for the FIFA leadership for not taking part in a debate on the future of football's world body.
With the FIFA vote less than a month away, all but French former FIFA official Jerome Champagne backed out of a debate planned Wednesday at the European parliament.
Deputies behind the debate strongly criticised Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa, head of the Asian confederation, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, Tokyo Sexwale of South Africa and Prince Ali bin al Hussein, a former FIFA vice president from Jordan, for rejecting the debate.
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"It is a really a bad signal," said Belgian Euro MP Ivo Belet. "It shows the old FIFA."
"It's an own goal for each and every one who did not turn up today and it's an own goal for FIFA," added Emma McClarkin at a press conference held by Champagne.
"We have been deeply disappointed by the others not turning up today to this platform, an open, democratic platform."
The debate was proposed by the New FIFA Now activist group led by Damian Collins, a member of the British parliament.
Champagne wanted to be a candidate in the 2015 election won by Sepp Blatter, who is now banned for eight years. But he failed to get the required backing of five FIFA national associations to stand.
He said the "the situation is severe" at FIFA, which has been rocked by corruption scandals and an investigation into the attribution of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar. "If there is no governance people will steal the game."
The BBC became the latest television channel to call off plans to hold a televised debate with the candidates before the February 26 election in Zurich.
BBC presenter Victoria Derbyshire said on Twitter that the proposed FIFA debate had been "pulled" after "one declined, some others wanted to, um, move the goalposts."
American channel ESPN called off its plans for a television debate in January when three of the candidates declined to take part.