KEIR RADNEDGE in MEXICO CITY: Gianni Infantino has warned world football leaders that FIFA would “have no mercy” on anyone misusing ramped-up development grants.

Infantino was addressing his first congress as president after being elected in February in succession to banned and disgraced Sepp Blatter.

Gianni Infantino settles into the seat of FIFA power

One of his manifesto pledges which swung the ballot his way was for extra development funds for the 200-plus national associations and the way a massive increase would be organised, distributed and audited was a centre-piece of what was almost a one-man show in the Centro Banamex in Mexico City.

Finance director Markus Kattner followed up a reasurring report that FIFA’s accounts were “solid” by confirmed an increase in the development budget from $900m to $1.417m. Sums available for individual federations would rise from $400,000-a-year to $1.25m-a-year within a tightly-audited, redesigned structure.

Structural ‘mess’

Infantino said: “We have six development programmes and 10 budgetary regulations. It’s a mess and it has to be streamlined.” But he warned delegates: “Don’t betray us. Don’t misuse the money or we will have no mercy.”

One of the worst features of the Blatter regime had been the way in which development funds were misused, not only in financial terms but also as a political weapons.

Infantino also reported on the process for choosing the host of the 2026 World Cup because, as he said, “it is crucial we have a bullet-proof process in place . . . we have to get it right.”

Infantino promised to travel soon to Israel and Palestine to follow upon the work undertaken by a monitoring commission led by Tokyo Sexwale, the South African businessman and unsuccessful FIFA presidential candidate.

Sexwale told congress that progress had been made over the tangled issue of free movement of athletes and sports goods but confronted jurisdiction problems concerning five clubs playing in the so-called ‘contested areas’.

He warned: “If this issue is not solved it will come back as a problem to FIFA at future congresses.”

In other decisions . . . Congress endorsed the suspensions of Benin and Kuwait over governmental interference issues while noting the raising of the suspension of Indonesia. The Kuwait suspension was endorsed by an overwhelming 176 votes to 13.

Kosovo and Gibraltar were voted in as the 210th and 211th members of FIFA. European federation UEFA has been charged with slotting them into the 2018 World Cup qualifying competition.

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