KEIR RADNEDGE in MOSCOW: Gianni Infantino has boasted proudly to FIFA Congress of what had been achieved – above all financially – since he took over as president of the world football federation two years ago in succession to banned and disgraced Sepp Blatter.
The Swiss former general secretary of European governing body savoured the section of his presidential address which revealed financial figures far exceeded projections “in spite of the worst crisis FIFA has experienced.” Later he announced he would be seeking re-election next year.
Infantino told delegates from 210 member associations – only crisis-hit Ghana was absent – that when he took up the presidency “FIFA was clinically dead as an organisation.”
All that had changed, he claimed in a massive display of self-agrandising ego, on his personal watch. Infantino said: “Today, a bit over two years later, FIFA is alive and well, full of joy, filled with passion and with a vision for its future.
“The reforms and the principles of good governance that we introduced were instrumental in this renaissance of FIFA. We introduced term limits, three terms of four years, we named independent members to our finance and development committees, we voted in high ranking and very respected personalities to our bodies.”
Talking in tongues
Infantino switched confidently between the main four FIFA languages – French, German, English and Spanish – as he talked up the body’s “absolute transparency about financial aspects.”
He added: “Everybody knows exactlt now where the money comes from and where it is destined. There are no longer additional costs in the balance sheet. Everything is clearly documented and clearly tracebable.
“We published the Garcia report [into the 2018/2022 World Cup award scandal] that had been hidden away for four or five years and we also introduce an application system that is solid, transparent and reliable for the World Cup hosting in 2026.”
Infantino hailed the value of his regional executive summits off the pitch and the imminent World Cup introduction of video assistance for referees.
But above all, and doubtless with an eye to his pursuit of re-election next year, Infantino enjoyed talking up the financial status of an organisation in financial free-fall after the corruption scandals erupted from the Blatter regime.
Infantino said: “I can present to you incredible figures when it comes to the finances of FIFA. Some were predicting God knows what dark days for the future of FIFA finances especially if we were to invest more in development.
“But at the end of this 2015-18 cycle the original projection and budget which was $5bn will, at the end, foresee over $6.1bn – more than $1.1bn more than what was expected four years ago and in spite of the worst crisis FIFA has experienced.
“I’m also proud that, instead of $350m we now have $1.4bn invested in football development. It is your money and you and your children and your boys and girls have to benefit from the revenues of FIFA.”