A few weeks ago we met the FIFA Presidential Candidates and now that the election has completed we can delve further into what to expect from the newly elected Gianni Infantino. The election was largely a two horse race between Infantino and Sheikh Salman and in the runoff Infantino prevailed over the impressive record of Salman. This finally marks the end to Sepp Blatter’s 18-year reign as FIFA president that ultimately ended in a corruption scandal and with Blatter banned from all FIFA activities for eight (later reduced to six) years. The scandal seemed to stay on everyone’s mind as soon after the election Infantino was thought to have promised the 2026 World Cup to the United States in exchange for the vote of Sunil Gulati who switched his vote to Infantino in the second round of the election. Although Infantino denied these allegations and nothing has come of it, it is certain that his presidency will be under increased scrutiny in the wake of the Blatter Scandal (Conway 2015).
Infantino, a Swiss lawyer and generally secretary of UEFA, ran mainly on a platform of increasing the World Cup pool from 32 teams to 40 teams, a plan that was accused of “pandering for votes” and called “unprofessional” by Sheikh Salman but ultimately proved very popular amongst the voters (Borden 2015). In the past he successfully implemented a similar plan that saw the increase of the UEFA European Championship from 16 teams to 24 and this success combined with his appeal as a candidate that is above the politics and a good worker was a cornerstone of his campaign. He also implemented Financial Fair Play in his time at UEFA adding to his reputation as someone who can get things done (Staunton 2015). As Infantino describes, “I’m not a politician, I’m a football person and I’m a worker. If we stop doing politics and start doing football, the world will admire us” (Roan 2015).
Many people remember Gianni Infantino as the man who picks the draw on TV for the UEFA Champions League, an honor that his predecessor Sepp Blatter held in the past, but in his new role he will be a lot more influential than picking out some pieces of paper from bowls. This worries some people who see his connection with Sepp Blatter, another Swiss, and Michel Platini, the former President of UEFA who was suspended with Blatter receiving an unlawful payment from Blatter himself (Borden 2015). In fact, Infantino, often called Platini’s “right hand man,” was so loyal to Platini that before Platini’s ban was finalized Infantino said he would not run against him as Platini was the likely successor to Blatter in many people’s eyes. This loyalty was worrying for many, but Infantino seems to have overcome his associations with Platini (Farrell 2015).
Perhaps the most difficult part of Infantino’s platform as President of FIFA involves investing in member associations of FIFA as part of a development plan that would see £860 million of FIFA’s revenue spent. Approximately £3.5 million would go to each member association in this plan, which many voters likely found attractive (Roan 2015). He would also give $40 million to each of six confederations in this plan. This could not come at a worse time for FIFA, however, as they are in a major financial crisis due to the controversy and subsequent investigations by the United States Department of Justice (Stanton 2015). Infantino has not entered this position at a very easy time for FIFA and only time will tell if he will be able to help the organization put the recent controversy behind and be able to implement his radical changes.
Borden, Sam. “In FIFA Pitch, Gianni Infantino Pushes Expansion and Continuity.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 24 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.
Conway, Richard. “Fifa: Gianni Infantino Denies 2026 World Cup Promise to US.” BBC Sport. BBC, 28 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.
Farrell, Dom. “Who Is Gianni Infantino? New FIFA President Backs Reform for Troubled Organization – Goal.com.” Goal.com. Goal.com, 26 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.
Roan, Dan. “Fifa Presidential Election: No Winner after First round of Voting.” BBC Sport. BBC, 26 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.
Staunton, Peter. “Gianni Infantino Takes Charge as FIFA Faces Financial Ruin after Blatter’s Reign – Goal.com.” Goal.com. Goal.com, 26 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.