Saudi Arabia’s Football Republic

Brian Whitaker, former Middle East editor of the Guardian, writes in his blog Al-Bab:

Largely unnoticed by the rest of the world, Saudi Arabia held a presidential election last week. The presidency in question – that of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) – was scarcely of earth-shattering importance and yet, in several respects, the election marked a significant milestone.

SAFF, in effect, has become a soccer republic. For the first time since its foundation in 1956 by Prince Abdullah bin Faisal Al Saud, football’s governing body in the kingdom is no longer run by a member of the royal family. In last week’s election, members of the general assembly had a choice of two candidates (neither of them royals), who set out their platforms in a TV debate. And if that kind of process can work for SAFF, might it not be applied to other official bodies in the kingdom too?