By Paul Nicholson
April 13 – Less than a week after FIFA’s Congress in Doha and president Gianni Infantino’s announcement that he would be standing for election for a third term, FIFA’s administration have begun aggressively politicking for their president in a clear violation of the world governing body’s rules.
FIFA’s regulations prohibit the FIFA administration from playing any role in lobbying for their preferred candidate in the election process. Only federations can nominate candidates and only federations can vote in the election. Election candidates are required to run their own campaigns and to declare the sources and amounts of funding for their campaigns.
The rules have rarely bothered Infantino’s handpicked administration who have time and again abused their positions and FIFA’s governance structures to railroad through their preferred candidates in both member association and confederation elections.
A templated letter, seen by Insideworldfootball, has been sent via WhatsApp to a number of European and South American member associations. The letter is headed ‘Proposal and support for the candidacy of [Name of candidate] for the position of FIFA President’, and once fields are filled in by the member federation, it is to be sent back to FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura.
The letter has been followed up by phone calls from the FIFA administration, led by Mattias Grafstrom, FIFA’s deputy general secretary, but also by other FIFA staffers, telling the member associations to insert Gianni Infantino as the ‘name of candidate’.
Not only are the member associations being told to nominate Infantino via the templated letter, but they are also being told to state that they “will not sign any other declaration in support of another candidate for the position of FIFA President.”
It is a stunning and brazen intervention in the election process that currently has only one declared candidate – Infantino.
FIFA issued a call for election candidates on March 31. Candidates have four months from the opening day of the next Congress (FIFA’s 73rd) to file their nominations. Candidates need to have the support of five member associations in order to stand in the election.
The election itself, Infantino said at the FIFA Congress last week, will be held in early 2023 though the exact date is still to be announced. Some predictions are that Infantino will call the election for January when he will still be basking in the glory of another successful World Cup that will have concluded in Qatar on December 18.
By attempting to railroad member associations into supporting Infantino before nominations have even closed and any date for the election set, FIFA’s administration appear to be engineering a situation where Infantino has enough pledges of support to, in theory, guarantee his re-election before potential rivals have announced their candidatures.
With the letter sent to member associations being backed up by the full force of Infantino’s closest political advisors on FIFA’s staff, it is a blatant subversion of any democratic, transparent or open election process whose sitting president repeatedly takes every opportunity to tell the world that he has reformed his organisation from its corrupt and tainted past.
Asked whether they would file complaints of interference in the election process to FIFA’s Ethics body the member associations all said that they feared by doing that they would only risk their own positions and their federations by doing so.
However, the FIFA Ethics investigatory chamber doesn’t need a complaint to open an investigation. The problem with FIFA Ethics’ so-called ‘independence’ is that since Infantino took charge of FIFA, and then control of its Ethics body’s appointed members, it has a poor record of opening investigations unprompted.
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