|Worawi Makudi shakes the hand of challenger|
Pichate Munkong at Friday's FAT general meeting
The Football Association of Thailand’s presidential election was shrouded in controversy when the executive board suddenly postponed the scheduled vote by members.
The controversy began when Itthipol Burananin, a representative of Taphan Hin club claimed he had a letter of authorisation from the club’s president to register for the FAT general meeting. The authorisation was then brought into question by a separate individual who claimed to be the president of the club in question.
Itthipol was eventually escorted out of the meeting room by officials, who then began checking for other authorisation letters, only to discover that the credentials of several of those present failed to meet “proper standards”.
As the general meeting was about to start, FA caretaker president Worawi Makudi announced its postponement, much to the dismay of the gathering club representatives. Worawi called an emergency board meeting for late Friday.
Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) deputy governor Somkit Pinthong, who sat in on the meeting to oversee the election, was critical of the decision to postpone the voting.
“The decision meant the FAT showed no respect to my office and its own member clubs. The board discussed with me before the meeting whether they could postpone the election. I advised that they could, but that it had to be a resolution taken by the whole general meeting – the board couldn’t make the decision by themselves,” Pinthong said.
“We will now study the relevant laws over what action we can take. We will also invite the association to offer an explanation for its action. The question of whether we will intervene and take charge of the election can only be answered once we have consulted the statutes.”
Virat Chanpanich, the FAT executive board member who was identified as “the man lurking in the shadows” in rumours about a third candidate set to join in the race, expressed his dismay at the postponement.
“The decision came out of nowhere, leaving the SAT perplexed. As a board member, I feel ashamed at what happened. I want to offer an apology to all member clubs,” he said.
“What [the executive board] did was akin to an insult to members, many of whom had made long trips from upcountry to attend the meeting.
“I don’t know what the future holds for Thai football now. The disqualification from the Olympic qualifiers was already bad enough.
I’m ready [ready to stand for president] if anyone nominates me for the post. Today I felt like an athlete who turned up at the venue but had no chance to compete,”
Worawi then staged an impromptu press conference to announce that the election was postponed due to duplication of [original copies of] authorisation letters.
“We needed to postpone the election. Even though we discussed the duplication of the letters with the SAT, they could not give us clear answers, and we were unable to judge which letters were authentic,” Worawi explained.
“We will coordinate with SAT over a new date for the general meeting. The rules state that it has to be held within 60 days.
“On the question of why we did not seek a postponement resolution from the meeting, it was because there was a problem with the legitimacy of the participants, so we couldn’t do that.”
However, a source close to the FAT board said that fear of losing his post was Worawi’s real reason for postponing the meeting, after early indications suggested that the caretaker president was due to lose the vote to Virat.