Gianni Infantino is the new president of FIFA and the Swiss official is planning some big changes.
Infantino, 45, surprisingly defeated heavy favorite Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa in the second round of the presidential vote at FIFA’s extraordinary congress in Zurich on Friday and now his main task is to clean up the organization’s reputation.
[ MORE: Infantino elected new president ]
With ongoing investigations from both the U.S. and Swiss authorities into widespread allegations of corruption, that will be no mean feat but it feels like FIFA’s members have got this one right.
Infantino has worked at UEFA for the past 15 years and has risen from being known as the man who conducts UEFA draws to the most powerful man in world soccer. Some questions have been raised regarding his close relationship with Michel Platini who has been banned by FIFA for six years, along with former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, after a private payment was made between the duo. But Infantino has passed all of the required checks — he entered the presidential race pretty late on as a replacement for Platini as UEFA’s candidate — and is regarded as a straight-laced individual who can usher in real change.
Recently he embarked on a tireless tour of the globe, visiting over 70 nations and getting star names such as Jose Mourinho, Fabio Capello and Luis Figo to endorse his bid to try and gain as much support as possible. The late push worked. Big time.
So what will the now former General Secretary of UEFA bring to the party?
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Well, a key part of his final speech on Friday — which lasted for less than 15 minutes as he spoke in several different languages and appealed to nations across the globe — was emphasizing that he’d give FIFA’s money back to the member nations. That was warmly applauded and a very smart move.
“The money of FIFA is for the development of football and nothing else,” Infantino said. “This is what we have to do.”
He also seemed up for the challenge of bringing nations together and understood that smaller and bigger soccer countries need different kinds of help from the governing body.
Infantino also acknowledged FIFA’s current issues — of which there are many following decades of corruption — which is a good place to start and he stated: “When the situation is difficult, my friends, you have two choices. You hide or you stand up. For me, to hide has never been an option.”
Now he’s not hiding. He’s sitting front and center and will aim to restore respect for FIFA with his humble manner and obvious business nous which has helped turn UEFA into a juggernaut, financially, with both the Champions League and European Championships becoming huge tournaments in world soccer under his stewardship.
In his victory speech in front of the 209 member nations, Infantino promised to bring back respect through hard work and commitment. He is saying all the right things and seems to be up for the challenge in leading real change amid the wide-ranging reforms that were rubber-stamped and will become new laws in 60 days time.
“I want to work with all of you together in order to restore and rebuild a new era of FIFA where we can put again football at the center of the stage,” Infantino said. “FIFA has gone through sad times, moments of crisis, but those times are over. We need to implement the reform and implement good governance and transparency. We also need to have respect. We’re going to win back this respect through hard work, commitment and we’re going to make sure we can finally focus on this wonderful game that is football.”
Here’s a look at the main points of Infantino’s manifesto, as the new president has plenty of work to get stuck into but we can expect him to be working on these key issues:
- 40-team World Cup tournament shared between co-hosts
- Give back 50 percent of revenue directly to members
- Each federation offered $5 million for development projects and ongoing programs, plus $1 million for travel expenses
- Each confederation to receive $40 million for development projects, plus $4 million for assistance in organizing age-group tournaments
- Publish salaries of FIFA executives (Part of new reforms)
- 12-year term limits for Presidents (Part of new reforms)
- Legends team to travel the world