Part of Sportingintelligence’s guide to the 2016 FIFA presidential election: HOME PAGE here
By James Corbett
1 February 2016
FIFA presidential candidate Gianni Infantino today unveiled a 90-day action plan for his first three months in office if he wins the election scheduled for later this month, 26 February.
Appearing at a launch event at London’s Wembley Stadium, the Swiss spoke of his ‘emotion’ at the ‘big responsibility’ facing his candidature.
‘The image and reputation of FIFA is not very high and it has to rise again,’ he said, nodding to the high-profile backers to turn up in support, including Jose Mourinho, Luis Figo and Roberto Carlos. ‘All these legends here are a testimony for the love we have for football.’
In a 15-minute presentation, preceded by two dozen video endorsements from a range of footballing legends (Fernando Hierro ‘Big Hugs!’; Dwight Yorke, from what appeared to be nightclub; Marco Materazzi, and so on), the 45-year-old tried to keep to his opening statement: ‘I’m not a politician – I’m a doer and maker.’
He laid out 10 points of an 11-point action plan for his first three months in charge (the mystery eleventh is to be revealed on the day of the election). These included implementation of good governance and compliance reforms, launching the process for 2026 World Cup bidding, introducing ‘concrete reforms of the transfer system’, setting up new football development regulations. In short, a lot of things FIFA does already, albeit not always very well.
Inevitably, however, it will be his celebrity friends and advocacy of ‘a legends team’ that will tour the world ‘to promote the social impact of football globally’ that will gather most headlines. ‘Figo is captain of captains,’ he said, nodding to the man in the front row, then, alluding to the Portuguese’s withdrawn bid to be president last year: ‘He is much braver than I am and stood at a time when it was difficult to stand.’
For those that matter – the 209 member associations who will vote on the president – there were blatant overtures to the African and Caribbean federations whose influence will decide the election. He made specific reference to advocates of a Caribbean League – ‘a good idea to boost football’ – and suggested that Africa could have ‘seven or eight World Cup qualifiers’ as opposed to the five at present.
‘What we want to do is open the doors of FIFA administration. I am convinced the general secretary of FIFA should not be European. Why not an African?’ he said.
Sources have suggested that both Infantino and Sheikh Salman have made overtures to Hicham El Amrani, the 36-year-old CAF general secretary for this role.
He said that FIFA under his rule would have no issue meeting the $1.2billion in development money he has pledged over the first term of his presidency. ‘Is it right that only 18 per cent [of FIFA’s money] is distributed to federations?’ he asked. He vowed to increase development funds to 50 per cent.
‘If there’s one thing I know, it’s figures,’ he said on more than one occasion, and it was when extrapolating on the wastage of the FIFA administration that he was at his best. Why, for instance, did FIFA Congress cost €30million when UEFA’s cost €1million? Was it right, he said – nodding to his plan to speared the World Cup across groups of nations – that smaller countries miss out or are left with – and he used a phrase few football administrators ever utter – ‘white elephants’?
Yet when the floor was opened to the press, although bilingual and articulate, he was not always so assured. He fudged a question on his salary as UEFA general secretary, having previously called for transparency on pay; effectively refused to answer a question on whether Michel Platini’s ban was a fitting punishment; and was respectful and largely conciliatory when asked not just about his rivals, but Sepp Blatter too.
When asked about UEFA’s handling of match fixing crises in Greece, he claimed, unconvincingly: ‘There’s no organisation in the world that has a better record against match fixing than UEFA.’
He spoke of the ‘life threats’ that had been made against him because of the stance he had made against fixers and how his children had been forced to endure police protection.
‘In Turkey,’ he added bringing Greece’s neighbour into the equation. ‘People went to jail.’ He failed to mention that that was only because the country’s judicial authorities had seen out punishments, while UEFA ignored the advice of its own disciplinary inspector to ban officials for life, or push for full domestic sanctions for offending clubs on top of European bans.
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Visit the in-depth candidate pages for Prince Ali bin Hussein, Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa, Jerome Champagne, Tokyo Sexwale and Gianni Infantino. Get a scorecard of MANIFESTO PLEDGES here. See our FIFA 2016 NEWS & RESOURCES page and FIFA 2016 ANALYSIS page.