Gianni Infantino said Wednesday he had turned FIFA into an organisation “synonymous with credibility” as he was re-elected for a second term as president of world football’s governing body.
It was a formality that the 49 year-old would be waved through for a new four-year mandate, until 2023, as he stood unopposed at the FIFA Congress in Paris.
The FIFA Council chose to back his re-election by acclamation, with Infantino now hoping to build on the work he started in February 2016, when he was voted in to succeed the disgraced Sepp Blatter at the head of the organisation.
Eager to “open up” and “globalise” the game, he will now push ahead with already approved plans to expand the Club World Cup to 24 teams, and with his ambition of expanding the World Cup itself to 48 teams.
As he addressed the 211 members of the Congress in the French capital, where the Women’s World Cup begins on Friday, Infantino claimed credit for the success of the 2018 men’s World Cup in Russia, the “transparent” bidding process for the 2026 tournament in North America, and the introduction of Video Assistant Referees into the game.
He said he was now at the head of “a new FIFA, an organisation that is synonymous with credibility, confidence, integrity.”
“Today nobody talks about crises, nobody talks about rebuilding FIFA from scratch, nobody talks about scandals, nobody talks about corruption. We talk about football,” insisted the Swiss-Italian lawyer, formerly secretary general of European governing body UEFA.
“The very least we can say is that we have turned the situation around.
– No longer ‘toxic’ –
“In three years and four months, this organisation went from being toxic, almost criminal, to being what it should be, an organisation that develops football, an organisation that cares about football.”
Infantino has overseen a major increase in FIFA’s income, with cash reserves increasing to a record $2.75 billion over his first term. FIFA announced record revenue for the three years to 2018, of $6.4 billion.
“FIFA has today also the most solid financial situation ever and is coming out of the period of its worst crisis,” he said.
FIFA have had to abandon highly controversial plans to expand the World Cup from 32 teams to 48 in time for the next tournament in Qatar in 2022.
– Club World Cup plans –
The radical change to the tournament will now have to wait until 2026, but Infantino has already got the green light for a flagship 24-team Club World Cup starting in 2021.
The existing format involves just seven clubs. A venue for the new-look competition has still to be found.
“My philosophy as FIFA president is one of openness and as long as I am president of FIFA I will push as hard as I can to have more global worldwide competitions, possibilities, openness for everyone to be able to play,” he said.
He stated his ambition to generate an enormous $50 billion in revenue from the sale of the commercial rights for the new competition, which has been opposed by European clubs.
“In terms of commercialisation I hope to make 50 billion, not 25. I’m not sure we’ll get them but I hope so,” Infantino said, although he did not state how many editions that would cover.
Infantino previously worked closely with Michel Platini, but the suspended ex-head of UEFA this week attacked the FIFA chief, saying he had “no legitimacy” and accusing him of having mocked women’s football.
However, Infantino pointed to the appointment of Senegal’s Fatma Samoura as Secretary General and to the fact that women now made up 20 percent of all those involved in FIFA committees as he defended his work done in that area.
“It is only 20 percent, but before it was four percent. We need to be better, we will be, but we start, we move, we progress,” he said.
“At the Women’s World Cup in France this year we will have the explosion of women’s football,” he added.
That tournament will begin on Friday when hosts France play South Korea in Paris, and will run until July 7.
The next FIFA Congress will be held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in May next year.