Michel Platini will not challenge Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency - a move which effectively gives Blatter a free run at a fifth term in office.
The 59-year-old Frenchman has decided to focus instead on being re-elected as UEFA president but has vowed to fight Blatter's threat to cut Europe's allocation of World Cup places.
It now looks unlikely that Europe will even put forward a stalking horse to run against Blatter.
Football Association general secretary Alex Horne said: "We remain of the view that Sepp Blatter has served his time in FIFA but the reality is Michel Platini was the strongest European candidate and we absolutely respect his decision not to stand.
"The other confederations have said they are prepared to accept Sepp Blatter so the mathematical reality tells me that to put up a token candidate would be a bit of a hollow gesture."
Platini however expressed alarm to UEFA delegates in Monaco about Blatter's plans to shake up the World Cup places - and said that rather than accept any cut he will argue for Europe's number of places to be increased from 13 to 15 for 2018 including hosts Russia and reigning world champions Germany.
He told a news conference: "I have no intention to lose a single place - but ask for one more because we have the world champions. We had 15 in France '98 and my job is to ask FIFA for one more place."
Horne said that Platini's warning of the threat had chimed with UEFA delegates.
He added: "Michel raised the matter with some alarm, some concern, that he feels there is an anti-European edge and he wants to make sure Europe is together and strong."
Platini's decision comes as little surprise - standing against Blatter would have been an uphill struggle and would have meant the Frenchman not running for the UEFA presidency in March.
There is however certain to be continuing pressure from Europe for FIFA to carry out more reforms and Platini remains unhappy that Blatter, who was once his mentor, has reneged on his public promise not to stand for another term.
He also suggested he will stand for FIFA in four years' time.
He said: "Now is not my time, not yet. I want to complete what I have started and I want to go to the end of my contract with UEFA and if the federations wish I will still have a few years before this contract comes to an end."
Five of FIFA's six continental bodies have already announced their support for Blatter, only Europe has publicly opposed him, but Platini insisted he had not bottled the challenge.
He said: "I can't be accused of being afraid of Mr Blatter as I stood against Mr (Lennart) Johansson, the incumbent UEFA president in 2007 and that was no mean feat, I proved my stuff then.
"I told Mr Blatter to his face that I do not support him any more, I still respect him even though I think he should leave his post."
Platini was also damning about Blatter and the one person who has come forward to say he will stand in the election, former FIFA deputy secretary general Jerome Champagne.
He described Blatter as a "comms man" who often changed his mind, and said: "I'm not always sure he believes what he says."
On Champagne, Platini dismissed his chances, saying: "I don't think there is much interest there."