KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Gianni Infantino has promised that FIFA will work in the year ahead to make football “truly global.”
This may come as a surprise to billions of fans, players and officials around the world who thought that the international governing body’s ambition – when it was founded 117 years ago to the day – had been largely achieved.
Not so, according to the 51-year-old Swiss lawyer in his annual report to a 71st congress organised virtually out of FIFA’s Zurich headquarters.
FIFA has polished up its image in the five years since Infantino was elected to replace the banned and disgraced Sepp Blatter.
Fears about its finances have been resolved. This was illustrated by the $1.5bn Covid relief plan drawn entirely on the reserves.
Infantino took a swipe at his predecessor’s scandal-scarred regime in noting that this had been possible because “money in FIFA does not evaporate any more.”
The pandemic has presented enormous challenges for sport in general and football in general. Perhaps this was the reason for Infantino’s downbeat tone despite his attempt to paint a positive picture of the work ahead.
Doom and gloom
He started on a negative note, asking: “Is football really global? The answer is No. it is not. Clubs are fewer and fewer countries, and even fewer clubs, have the highest resources and this financial disparity is growing.
“Out of the top 30 clubs, in terms of revenues, there is not one club outside Europe.
“When it comes to national teams the trend is going to more imbalance: 100pc of the semi-finalists in the last four World Cups came from only two confederations – Europe and South America; seven out of the last eight in the Women’s World Cup came from Europe and one from CONCACAF, the United States who won the tournament.
“The European member associations are doing a fantastic job and we want Europe to grow even more but we want the rest of the world and the rest of Europe who is not part of the elite to grow as well and at a much higher pace than so far.
“We want to make football truly global.”
Infantino was short on proposals to achieve this leap into a brave new football world beyond a vision for “50 top national teams and 50 top clubs worldwide – women and men alike”.
How this would be achieved he did not say though he did exclude any more breakaway projects.
‘Stick with us’
Infantino, referring to the recent Super League eruption, said: “FIFA is against any such project. Football should not have to look outside of our structures to address the challenges of our sport.”
Infantino ran down a check list of issues for attention including the international calendar, transfer system reform, laws of the game, (offside, VAR etc), player health, technical development (eg, professional referees), social role (zero tolerance on discrimination), human rights (climate change, child protection, sporting integrity) and digital expansion.
As Infantino concluded: “There is a lot on our plate and need a lot of energy and motivation and enthusiasm to tackle each and every one of these areas from top to bottom.”