FIFA’s new president brings new hope for the game of soccer

Gianni Infantino is the new president of soccer’s corruption-scarred world governing body, winning election after promising national leaders of the sport that he would share the wealth from FIFA’s $5 billion World Cup revenues. Infantino was chosen on the second-ballot Friday to fill the unexpired term of longtime FIFA leader Sepp Blatter, who was forced out by the pressure of U.S. and Swiss investigations of bribery and corruption that emerged two days before the previous vote in May 2015.

He promised to spread the World Cup largesse to more federations, including additional guaranteed funds. He also pledged to expand the World Cup from a 32-team tournament to 40 teams, and give more opportunities to countries to stage the World Cup with multinational regional hosting.

“It is not the money of the FIFA president. The money of FIFA is your money,” he said, jabbing his left index finger to the 207 members of soccer federations before the election. “It is not the money of the FIFA president. It’s your money,” added Infantino,

Infantino takes over a wealthy but vulnerable soccer body whose image and confidence has been shattered by the escalating scandals. Before electing FIFA’s first new president since 1998, 87 percent of the 207 voting federations passed wide-ranging reforms to guard against corruption and curb the powers of its leader.

Those include preventing presidents from serving more than three four-year terms, reducing their powers and guaranteeing more independent oversight for FIFA’s decision-making and spending. The executive committee will be renamed the FIFA Council, with more female members. Stricter integrity checks will also control top officials.

The head of world soccer will no longer be the best-paid person in the governing body under reforms instigated to curb the president’s powers after corruption scandals that threatened FIFA’s existence. Instead, Infantino’s No. 2 — a chief executive in an overhauled FIFA structure — will now receive a bigger pay packet than the president, a person with knowledge of the situation said Saturday. A three-man remuneration committee decided that neither Infantino nor his CEO should earn more than Blatter, who was reported to have earned around $6 million — a figure not denied by FIFA and which is likely to have fluctuated based on bonuses.

But while they are looked at many do not believe these measures are nearly enough to right the ship within an organization fraught with corruption. But campaign group New FIFA Now said the changes still left a lack of accountability among the game’s leaders.

“#NewFIFANow congratulates Gianni Infantino on his election as FIFA President and notes the adoption by FIFA Congress of changes to the FIFA Statutes recommended by the Carrard Committee,” it said in a statement.

“Notwithstanding that some reforms are inarguable and welcome, #NewFIFANow believes that they do not address the fundamental structural flaws within football nor, importantly, its culture.

“The reforms fail to make football accountable to the two most important stakeholders in the game – players and fans, as well as the clubs and leagues in which they play and that they support.

“We are of the view that expanding the membership of the FIFA Council and potentially the World Cup, does not address what it is purports to do, but entrench a larger power elite.”

It said that governance, finance and audit was still left with one official only and called for it to be more transparent.

New FIFA Now added that it would continue pushing for change.

“Of concern is the lack of checks and balances required of the 209 football associations and six confederations,” the statement continued.

“These entities are not representative of the game’s stakeholders, hold significant influence at the grassroots and professional level in their countries and regions, and yet remain unaccountable.

“Significant cultural and systemic changes are required at this level if the modest reforms agreed today are to have any real and lasting impact.

“We are disappointed that the FIFA Executive Committee did not agree to an independent advisory group to oversee reform. While this would not be as far reaching as an independent FIFA Reform Commission led by an eminent person that we have been recommending, it would have been an encouraging step in the right direction.

“#NewFIFANow will continue its advocacy to ensure that the game’s forgotten stakeholders get the world football administration that they want and deserve.”

While all of us in the football community agree that these moves are long overdue in an organization, the new rules do offer some hope for a corruption-stricken unit like FIFA who has long lost deviated from its core mission of using its power and money to advance the sport to all countries worldwide. With Sepp Blatter banned for six years and his minions removed from FIFA, perhaps a new set of rules can replace the oligarchy that has existed for the past 17 years. Let’s all wish Infantino the best as he tackled the past problems and abuses in order to properly promote the best sport on the planet.