BERNE (Reuters) - FIFA presidential candidate Jerome Champagne is out of the race after failing to win sufficient backing for his candidacy, saying that national associations feared "reprisals" if they supported him.
Champagne said in a statement that he had won the backing of only three national associations for his bid to unseat Sepp Blatter, rather than the minimum of five stipulated in the rules.
"I regret to have to announce that I have not presented the five sponsorship letters needed to be registered as a candidate in the election of 29 May," the Frenchman said in a statement.
Blatter, in charge since 1998, is favourite to be re-elected for a fifth mandate in the election on May 29 despite widespread criticism of FIFA under his leadership.
Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, former Portugal forward Luis Figo and Dutch FA president Michael van Praag have also said they are standing for election.
"The institutions have mobilised to eliminate the only independent candidate," said Champagne.
"The latest events orchestrated in secret with barely veiled intentions by one of them, distributing letters of support between candidates, made me lose sponsorships especially in Europe."
Champagne, a former FIFA official, said there were "numerous" reasons why the federations had not supported him.
"Because they feared reprisals from their confederations
having issued "recommendations". Because their federations were candidates to host continental competitions.
"Because they relied too heavily on the financial support. Because they were committed to defend a united continental front.
"Because some of the presidents were themselves
engaged in an election or simply preferred another candidate.
"I also note that I would have been a candidate with the old version of the rules, and that I cannot be one with the new modifications adopted in 2013 on a UEFA proposal," he added.
"Despite the disappointment, I do not feel any bitterness because I know how the pyramidal structure of football works."
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)