A Fresh Start for FIFA?
Can football’s governing body seize the opportunity for reform?
The election of Gianni Infantino on 26 February 2016 as the new President of FIFA represents perhaps the last chance for world football’s governing body to repair its reputation and embrace wide-ranging reforms. Yet this will not be easy and will require total commitment to wide-spread cultural and structural changes within this complex and tainted organisation.
There can be little doubt that Gianni Infantino faces an uphill task to overhaul FIFA’s battered reputation. The administrator, who has been at the European governing body UEFA for the past fifteen years, promised in his acceptance speech to “bring football back to FIFA”, but first must lift it off its knees following a period of chaos and crisis.
The US and Swiss investigations looking into allegations of a ‘World Cup of fraud’, precipitated by the decision in 2010 to hand the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals to Russia and Qatar, are continuing and senior executives have been arrested on charges of money laundering and corruption. Sponsors have disassociated themselves and revenues have plummeted, with a $550m financial black hole urgently in need of being filled.
Yet the election of Infantino offers a glimmer of hope. He is untainted by past scandals, nor by any association with Sepp Blatter’s regime. He has clearly demonstrated his abilities as a football administrator with UEFA, having made considerable progress in many areas and achieved a number of successes during his tenure. He will bring a level of professionalism which FIFA requires at this stage.
Yet FIFA will not be easy to reform. And paradoxically, at the heart of the problem is the undeniably democratic nature of the organisation, in which each of the 207 member countries has a single vote.
Senior Managing Director