By Andrew Warshaw
December 23 – Gianni Infantino insists FIFA is a more financially transparent and credible organisation under his leadership despite the ongoing US-led anti-corruption probe and the stream of negative headlines in the early days of his presidency.
In a wide-ranging interview with Spanish sports publication Marca, Infantino says FIFA has learned from its past mistakes, not least when it comes to the flow of money.
“I think that unfortunately FIFA has been through some very difficult periods and a very tough crisis,” says Infantino. “We are demonstrating that we can regain credibility. Only work can prove to people that this is a new FIFA, a new era of how you have to govern football. It is an exercise that we do every day, with passion, but above all with work and enthusiasm.”
The scandal that brought the organisation to its knees and led to the premature resignation of the now banned Sepp Blatter will, Infantino says, only fuel his determination to improve the organisation’s image following the 18-year reign of his predecessor.
“You must not forget but you have to learn from the past not to fall into the same mistakes. There are open investigations in the United States and Switzerland. FIFA collaborates 100 percent with the authorities. You have to look forward, without having to worry about the past.
FIFA is a strong organisation, both from an economic point of view and from internal processes and rules. It is a transparent organization. From now on you will know where the money comes from and where the money goes.”
Only months after he took over from Blatter, Infantino was cleared by FIFA ethics investigators of any wrongdoing himself yet there are nevertheless growing concerns that he will not be able to fulfil his election pledge to massively increase contributions to each and every national associations without massive cost-cutting in other areas and a healthy dose of political expediency.
Countering the criticism that his election promise was vastly over-ambitious, Infantino argued: “FIFA is now investing four times more. Before each federation received $1.6 million, now it is $5 million. They are not distributed in just any way, they are investments for the development of football. Each federation must meet certain requirements to receive this money. It has to be invested in football projects in each country.”
Asked whether the general public’s opinion of FIFA as a corrupt organisation had changed since he took over from Blatter, Infantino maintained key decisions were no longer taken unilaterally or by FIFA’s elite inner circle though not everyone will be convinced by this, given the raft of questionable actions taken during the first few weeks of his own presidency. “There are no decisions made by a group of people or a person,” he insisted. “We put everything on the table and evolve.”
On the extent to which the Russian doping scandal might impact on the country staging the 2018 World Cup, Infantino says FIFA will act if necessary, without being specific. “Exclusions or boycotts have never been useful. If the McLaren Report shows anything related to football, FIFA will make the necessary decisions.”
And on Qatar 2022 and all the negativity over workers’ rights?
“Of course it is a subject that concerns us. Maybe it was not the centre of attention until a while ago. We are monitoring everything and making important progress. I am optimistic by nature, but I am also pragmatic. It is an opportunity to take it (the World Cup) to countries that have never had a chance to organize something like this and put the spotlight on issues that have no direct relation to football, such as human rights and workers’ rights. Without the World Cup, this theme would not exist.”
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