By Paul Nicholson
February 16 – It seems Gianni’s jet fetish may still be alive and kicking despite a FIFA Ethics investigation and reminders on rules about accepting gifts or favours that could prove later to be compromising. The FIFA president took a private jet on November 26, 2016 from Moscow to Kazan, provided by Russian sports minister and FIFA Council candidate Vitaly Mutko.
Infantino was cleared by FIFA ethics investigators of having no case to answer after he was referred to them by internal FIFA whistleblowers over use of private jets on FIFA business and his personal expense claims. Questions had already been asked about his heavy use of private jets during his FIFA election campaign and who was funding those flights – his UEFA stipend for the election would not have been enough to cover the costs.
Speaking to Marc Meschenmoser on Swiss broadcaster SRF’s Rundschau news programme, FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura when asked about the jets did not deny their use saying: “If there is something to report, we will know about it. In general, it is the case that the private jet was the rule in former times – today, private jets are the exception.”
The allegation that Mutko provided the jet could be extra embarrassing for Infantino as Mutko waits to hear whether he has cleared FIFA’s internal integrity check over whether he is eligible to stand as a candidate for FIFA Council at the UEFA elections in May.
Infantino’s pay package also came up in the Rundshau programme with news that he would be getting a pay rise at the end of the first year. He currently earns CHF1.5 million a year which he has maintained is not enough and which he initially turned down as a salary when he was voted in as president a year ago.
It was a major issue for him and the organisation at the time and is clearly still the case.
On the issue Samoura said: “Neither the President nor I will get a bonus. Our salary is 25 to 50% below that of the predecessors, but the competent remuneration committee will decide.” One of the criticisms of the previous regime and the platform that elected Infantino were that their predecessors were hugely overpaid.
No bonus is understandable as the organisation is eating into its previously carefully hoarded reserves and has not signed any new sponsors under the Infantino regime, bar the signing of the deal with Wanda which was in place before Infantino arrived.
A salary raise will raise eyebrows across the governance sector of sport. Not least because of Samoura’s stunning revelation that 81 out of over 400 employees have left FIFA since Infantino came to power – a massive turnover of staff under anyone’s analysis and one which would in a corporate environment raise alarm bells with both board members and shareholders. FIFA doesn’t work that way.
Not surprisingly these include the whistleblowers who referred Infantino to the ethics investigators in the first instance are part of the departed.
The staff change is deemed necessary by FIFA’s bosses as part of a cultural change that Samoura intimated had seen staff previously working for personal gain. “I tell people internally: if they do not change their behavior and do not represent the interests of the FIFA, then these people have to leave the FIFA.”
Details on her and Infantino’s personal gains in terms of salary rises will be eagerly awaited by those still inside FIFA and those outside. FIFA’s accounts are currently being prepared for release.
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