KEIR RADNEDGE in MILAN: The voice of England’s David Gill was one of the few raised reportedly in dissent as Gianni Infantino pushed through the rule change which led to an apparent U-turn on FIFA reform.
Consternation erupted among the world federation’s critics when this month’s world federation congress in Mexico City approved an apparently anodyne regulation change which pulled the independence rug out from beneath the feet of FIFA’s judicial panels.
These included the audit and compliance committee and the ethics committee which had been responsible for taking down powerful presidents Sepp Blatter of FIFA and Michel Platini of European federation UEFA.
The congress clause change prompted the almost-immediate resignation of Domenico Scala, the Swiss businessman who had played a key role in pushing through reforms which sought, among other points, to restrict the power of the FIFA president.
The move proved a PR disaster for both FIFA and Infantino, being widely criticised as undermining the battle for reform.
A report in Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, crediting several sources within the newly-constructed FIFA Council (formerly executive committee) has claimed that the rule change which forced Scala’s departure was not approved without dispute.
Infantino, elected in succession to banned Blatter in February, had fallen out badly with Scala over the powers of the president, his accommodation and salary – an “insulting” $2m, FAZ reported him saying – and the process of appointing a new secretary-general. In addition Scala had angered council delegates from the Americas by halting the distribution of FIFA grants pending centralised audits in the wake of the FIFAGate corruption scandal.
It has been reported widely that, in the week leading up to congress, Infantino sought to persuade Scala to resign quietly and not to make a scene. Scala refused. Hence the progression to a rule change which would leave him no option.
According to FAZ Gill, a FIFA vice-president, apparently told council that his own Football Association would find the manoeuvres difficult to understand. “Unbelievable,” he is quoted as having said.
Gill, former Manchester United chief executive, joined the FIFA governing board as a UEFA delegate in May last year. Almost immediately he threatened to resign in protest at the re-election of Blatter in the wake of the US and Swiss police swoop on FIFA. In the event Gill stayed in place after Blatter announced his own intention to step down.