Last year, in the aftermath of the biggest scandal to ever envelope FIFA, former president Sepp Blatter resigned amidst rumors of corruption and foul play. This year, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) finally voted in Zurich on Friday, Feb. 26 to elect Gianni Infantino as their new president.
Infantino was not the original frontrunner for the position. Footballing legend Michele Platini had the best claim, but his candidacy was cut short by charges of corruption and a subsequent six-year ban from all footballing-related activities. Infantino also beat out both Prince Ali bin al-Hussein and Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, both influential officials who had gained a lot of support.
Infantino, unlike his predecessors, is not the typical football politician. As the former general secretary of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), European soccer's governing body, the 45-year old Swiss lawyer has proposed a manifesto appropriate for a new age. Infantino's biggest innovation is his dedication to financial transparency and his support for reform, which he hopes to achieve through clearly laying out financial obligations and payments. For example, every FIFA football association (spanning 209 countries) is promised five million dollars over four years, and each confederation (including UEFA) will receive 40 million. As the focal point of the corruption charges surrounding Blatter, this reform on the distribution of wealth was a main selling point of Infantino's presidency. Infantino also showed his understanding of the footballing world and how it works by travelling roughly the equivalent of five times around the globe to personally speak with each of FIFA's voting members.
Among his other propositions, Infantino has proposed giving all member countries an equal vote, becoming more involved at the club level, and expanding the scope of the World Cup from 32 to 40 countries.
Infantino's reign promises to be as impressive as his past. After studying law at Fribourg University, he worked as secretary general of the International Centre for Sports Studies at the University of Neuchâtel. Starting at UEFA in 2000, it took him just nine years to work his way up to general secretary. Throughout that time, he has maintained TV rights sales for both national and club teams while also developing social programs and backing for support ownership of clubs. He also helped introduce "financial fair play” regulations into the club level, revolutionizing the game's finances and cutting losses by 70 percent in the first three years of the restrictions.
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