Gianni Infantino is new president of FIFA
Gianni Infantino is the new FIFA president. The 45-year-old Swiss/Italian has worked for UEFA since 2000, the past six years as secretary general under the now dethroned UEFA president Michel Platini, whose candidature he more or less took over when Platini was banned from all football related activities last fall.
Infantino was elected with 115 votes in the second ballot, which took place during the Extraordinary FIFA Congress 2016, taking place in Zürich this Friday. Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa from Bahrain got 88 votes, Prince Ali from Jordan got four votes, while Jérôme Champagne from France did not get any in the second round.
The election turned out to be more of a cliffhanger than anticipated by many observers who had foreseen the Sheikh to win with support from the majority of the votes from the Asian og African football confederations, AFC and CAF.
But already in the first ballot, Infantino came out on top with 88 votes ahead of Sheikh Salman’s 85, Prince Ali’s 27 and Champagne, who got 7 votes. South African Tokyo Sexwale withdrew his candidature right before the first votes were cast.
In the second ballot most of the votes, placed with Champagne and Prince Ali in the first round, flipped to the multilingual Infantino, who tried to address his pre-vote speech directly to the delegates by shifting between several languages.
Infantino did not make many solid promises but stressed among other things his intention to gather football, redistribute more of FIFA's revenue and to make European football play a more active role in the development of football in the rest of the world. In his original manifesto, he also promises to include football’s stakeholders more in the work of the football body, to work for more transparency and to expand the number of teams in the World Cup from 32 to 40 teams.
New reform package approved
The new FIFA president will be working in an organisation that, before the election, voted in favour of another range of reforms laid forward by a reform commission, headed by former IOC director general François Carrard, which was set up following Sepp Blatter’s departure.
The reform package includes several initiatives that was previously denounced by FIFA, eg. limited term periods. But at today’s congress, a large majority of 179 FIFA members voted in favour of the reforms with only 22 votes against. Among other things the reforms include:
- A new ’FIFA Council’ consisting of 36 members and the FIFA president, the latter elected by the congress, will replace the current 24-member Executive Committee.
- The members of the Council will only be able to stay in office for 3 x 4 years.
- There will be integrity checks of the candidates running for leading positions.
- Remuneration of the FIFA president, secretary general and members of the Council will be made public.
- There will be a clearer separation of the powers between the political leadership of FIFA, which will be working more strategically, while the administration will be more independent in relation to the day-to-day execution of the policies.
- There will be a stronger female representation in the FIFA top, with each of the confederations having to appoint a minimum of one female representative for the FIFA Council.
- The national associations and the confederations will have a set of ‘Universal Principals’ of good governance incorporated in their statutes.
Meanwhile, the confederations will keep their central political position, as they will still be electing all FIFA Council members except for the president.
In a comment leading up to the election, Play the Game’s International Director, Jens Sejer Andersen, points to this very issue as a weakness in the reforms.
“This problem is aggravated by the fact that, as the FBI indictment and various other cases show, the confederations are just as permeated by corruption as the central FIFA body. There is a high probability that corruption may simply be decentralized from Zürich to the six confederation headquarters,” Jens Sejer Andersen assesses.
"It is true that the reform package will also introduce some basic good governance principles in the statutes of the national FAs and the confederations. However, the question remains to what extend these measures will actually lead to substantially better governance cultures in the lower half of the FIFA pyramid," he writes.