Scandal hit FIFA, the governing body of world football, has made two steps towards repairing a tarnished reputation.
In a surprise vote, Swiss Italian Gianni Infantino was elected as president of the organisation.
Infantino is so far untainted by the bribery and corruption accusations that brought down FIFA’s former boss Sepp Blatter, even though he served as UEFA’s secretary general for 15 years under Michel Platini, who was also banned from participating in world football alongside Blatter.
UEFA is the governing body of European football.
In a speech promising reform, Infantino also pledged to give more money to developing football and extending the World Cup finals to 40 teams. Both are seen as sops to the smaller footballing nations to gain votes.
Unwanted Blatter endorsement
He did, however, receive the endorsement he probably did not want from Blatter, who said: “He has all the qualities to continue my work.”
Many senior FIFA officials will be hoping those qualities are precisely what Infantino lacks.
The vote was won at an extraordinary meeting of FIFA.
Earlier, the organisation voted in a string of reforms aimed at cleaning up FIFA and buffing up the image and brand reeling from police investigations worldwide.
So who is Infantino?
Aged 45, he is a lawyer by trade who has administrated European football since 2001.
He joined the race for FIFA president by default when Platini picked up his ban. Platini’s supporters urged him to carry on running in his place and their votes carried him home in a close fought election.
Foul play claims
Importantly, Infantino has the support of the English Football Association.
It was accusations of foul play from the English when Blatter awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar that led to the first cracks in FIFA’s wall of corruption becoming exposed.
The question remains over whether Infantino has the personal steel and political clout to manage the runaway FIFA, but his grounding and contacts at UEFA should give him a sound launchpad for making a power base within the organisation.
Certainly the FIFA story has a long way to run before accusations, scandal and corruption claims end. Infantino and his supporters will hope he remains relatively untouched by the scandal as this is probably FIFA’s last chance to come clean.