SPORTS LAW AT THE CROSSROADS

Exclusive: Ramon Vega closes in for assault on FIFA’s presidential palace

By Andrew Warshaw

January 30 – Former Swiss international Ramon Vega has confirmed he is “actively considering” launching a challenge to Gianni Infantino for the Fifa presidency in June.

Vega, who for a brief period in 2015 considered throwing his hat into the ring to replace Sepp Blatter, says he will make a firm decision whether to announce his candidacy on Februaary 5 – the deadline for entering the presidential race and submitting the five required nominations from among FIFA’s 211 members.

Until now, it had been widely assumed that Infantino would stand unchallenged and be automatically handed a second term.

But the multi-lingual Vega, who for the past 15 years has been working as a highly successful businessman, is keen to throw down the gauntlet to Infantino in order to enhance FIFA’s democratic process.

Vega has been exploring the mood and tone among world football’s movers and shakers for the best part of three years, travelling extensively round the globe under the radar dedicating his energy to talking to influential parties about what needs to change.

As a result of his involvement in the previous FIFA election campaign and because of his numerous football business contacts, Vega, who won 23 caps for Switzerland, has friends in high places and genuinely believes he is eminently qualified to fill the most powerful position in world football.

Since taking over from Blatter, Infantino has worked aggressively to make sure all his key supporters are given top positions in continental federations.  But his leadership, resented by many as being too autocratic, has not been tested amid considerable indignation, especially in Europe, over his plans to sell off FIFA’s rights to a mysterious group of investors and revamp international football with a highly controversial £25 billion project that has not, according to his critics, been properly debated.

Vega says he is working hard to secure the required nominations and while he knows how hard it will be to unseat Infantino, if not impossible, he has lost little of his zeal and passion on the subject of FIFA’s reform process and good governance.

“I am actively considering a challenge,” Vega told Insideworldfootball. “I’ve had a great response from major stakeholders who are keen to make sure there is a democratic election process. Last time a lot of people told me I ticked all boxes but I was too late coming to the table.”

With his vast experience in both football and finance, and with no negative baggage, Vega is keener than ever to make a difference.  He and his advisors have been examining the landscape of FIFA under Infantino and, in private discussions, have tapped into the thinking of those who may not want to risk sharing their views in public.

“I can’t say who these people are but what I have learned is that there are many who feel FIFA has not been sufficiently transparent and democratic and things have not been going in the right direction,” Vega said.

He believes the fact that he has never been involved in any corruption-related or criminal activity adds considerable weight to his credibility and that if he gets the nominations and his candidacy is not for some reason blocked, he has a realistic chance.

Whilst it highly unlikely he would get the required letters of support from Africa or the Americas, it is understood he expects his nominations to come from Europe and Asia.

Interestingly, the deadline for entering the presidential race comes two days before the UEFA Congress in Rome. If Vega has submitted his candidacy, there is little doubt senior UEFA figures, not least its president Aleksander Ceferin, would take his challenge extremely seriously especially given Ceferin’s recent comments about the way Infantino is going about his business and the need for greater accountability.

“I have the knowledge, the languages, the business acumen and of course a career in football,” said Vega.

He knows, however, that the big question is whether those federations who have privately said they would support him would be prepared to have their names submitted to the FIFA leadership, with all the risks that might involve in any future dealings with the organisation who under the current presidency and senior executive has been swift to punish non-aligned voices.

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