World governing body FIFA has warned South Africa's soccer authorities that this month's election to choose the head of the national federation must not put preparations for next year's World Cup at risk.
Secretary-general Jerome Valcke told reporters on Tuesday FIFA was prepared to take over some operations of the World Cup local organising committee (LOC) if it saw a threat to the tournament from campaigning and the September 26 vote.
The election pits the LOC's two top officials - CEO Danny Jordaan and chairman Irvin Khosa - against each other. Molefi Olifant decided not to stand for re-election.
"We have the right to take the lead if we believe the LOC is not performing... as we expect it to be performing," Valcke said after a board meeting of the LOC in Johannesburg.
"Nothing can happen to the World Cup, so (we must make sure) it is not an election that puts the organisation of the World Cup in danger."
FIFA has repeatedly called for the vote to be postponed so it does not clash with South Africa's preparations for the World Cup, which is now less than a year away.
However, the South African Football Association (SAFA) has said the election must be held now because of its rules.
Organisers say preparations for the first African World Cup are on track - Jordaan has said stadium construction was about 90% complete - but critics fear the country will not be ready by June next year.
Valcke also said the SAFA president could not serve in an executive position on the LOC, meaning the winner would have to step down from his position on the committee.
Publicly the campaign has proceeded without incident but local media have reported the two candidates have been waging a furious battle behind the scenes.
"We will be there, we will monitor very carefully these elections," Valcke said, adding FIFA feared a situation in which the result was contested.
Losing Jordaan or Khosa - both highly regarded by FIFA - as key organisers for the tournament would be a big blow for the organisation.
But an LOC spokesman suggested a solution could be found to keep the winner in his current post by asking someone else to act as president until the World Cup.