Part of Sportingintelligence’s guide to the 2016 FIFA presidential election: HOME PAGE here
PROFILE: Gianni Infantino
Manifesto (PDF download): Via this link
Football background: UEFA 2000-present, currently General Secretary (October 2009-present), previously was secretary general to the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) at the University of Neuchâtel.
Non-football background: Qualified lawyer.
Any corruption? None known.
Allies: Michel Platini.
Enemies: Sepp Blatter, presumably.
Links to other candidates: Has admitted being Platini’s proxy.
Latest news: Infantino has said that he will not continue his candidacy for FIFA presidency if Michel Platini wins his appeal against his FIFA suspension and is allowed into the race. For latest news on all candidates click here for TIMELINE on resources page.
Gianni Infantino is UEFA’s General Secretary and one of five ‘active’ candidates for the presidency of FIFA. He is also a cipher, having long chosen to adopt a profile outside the public eye, even as the FIFA campaign gets under way.
When I sought to contact Infantino for an interview for this piece, I was directed to UEFA’s public relations office, who were happy to take my questions. However, those questions were answered with some boilerplate material from Infantino’s biography and to a brief interview that Infantino recently did with with Rob Harris of the AP.
In that interview, Infantino gives the strong impression that he really doesn’t want to be in this race. He was selected to run for the presidency when it became apparent that Michel Planini would be barred from running, and there would be not a UEFA candidate. Infantino explains, perhaps tongue in cheek, how he came to be the UEFA candidate: “We made a draw and my name came out.”
In another recent interview, Infantino explained that if Platini “is able to stand, I will withdraw. It’s a simple principle of loyalty.” He added that if he is elected president of FIFA, he would not step down to make way for Platini at that time. Infantino has, apparently, not commented on the charges against Platini.
As a loyal lieutenant Infantino explains: “I have been working with Michel Platini for the last nine years. We share many views and many ideas. It’s obvious we have the same philosophy on many things but I am a candidate on my own.” Perhaps, but there is little evidence available for those looking on to evaluate.
The substance of Infantino’s views and ideas are difficult to pin down, as he has rarely expressed them in public, even upon being announced as a candidate for the FIFA presidency. The UEFA response to my query provided few details. “Gianni will unveil his FIFA Presidency guiding Principles and a detailed Manifesto in due course,” UEFA say. “He is clear that fundamental reform has to be at the heart of a new FIFA if it is to have any chance of moving forward, regaining the trust of fans, commercial partners and the wider football family and ultimately be able to more effectively serve its National Associations.”
Infantino’s reticence stands in stark contrast to other FIFA candidates. Several weeks ago I met with Jerome Champagne and David Nakhid at the Play the Game conference in Aarhus, Denmark, where both spoke expansively about their visions for FIFA, taking multiple interviews. Nakhid has since been disqualified for procedural reasons, although he is, at 16 November, appealing to CAS. Both men clearly wanted the position and sought to describe their vision for FIFA in the future.
With Infantino, it is not clear that he does.
The biographical boilerplate tells us that Infantino hold dual Swiss and Italian citizenship, is trained as a lawyer and as made a career in high level professional staff supporting positions. He was general secretary of the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) at the University of Neuchâtel before joining UEFA in 2000, holding a number of positions. He has played a role in implementing Financial Fair Play and expanding the scope of the European Championships.
He is perhaps best known for advocating that the World Cup finals expand to 40 teams from the current 32. Infantino has not weighed in on FIFA’s ongoing existential crisis or offered any plans or proposals for reform.
Infantino’s candidacy, despite his position near the top of European football, remains a mystery and the man, a cipher.