Three cheers for Infantino

Saturday, January 27, 2018

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Those with an interest in football should treat the January 21 Sunday Observer article titled 'Infantino remains focused on bringing football back to FIFA' as compulsory reading.

The article by Jamaica Observer Sports Editor Mr Ian Burnett captures his interview with FIFA President Mr Giovanni “Gianni” Infantino during a FIFA Executive Football Summit at Montego Bay Convention Centre last week.

Readers will recall that Mr Infantino was elected two years ago to the helm of global football to bring accountability and transparency to the governance of FIFA and restore its credibility following the corruption scandal which brought down the administration of his predecessor, Mr Joseph “Sepp” Blatter.

We note Mr Infantino's assertion that considerable progress has been made in bringing best practices to FIFA's governance and in restoring its image.

Says he: “If we have transparency on the finances, that means where is the money coming from and where is the money going, then we have solved 95 per cent of our issues — whether they are real or perceived, it doesn't really matter. I think we went a really long way in this direction, so I'm very pleased about that.”

He added: “We have to remember what we are there for. It's not our business or company. FIFA is not my company. (I'm) not the main shareholder of FIFA, and Victor (Montagliani, president of CONCACAF) is not the main shareholder of FIFA. We are here (for a limited period of time) to care about an organisation which is the world's best organisation, because it's about football, and our job is to make sure that we organise competitions and we develop football.”

Jamaican football stakeholders will be especially taken with the article's revelation that “currently FIFA invests US$1.2 billion in football development projects all over the world, an increase from US$400 million previously. Each member association can now receive US$5 million per four-year cycle up from the US$1.6 million for the same period.

“Each member association has access to US$750,000 per year for football projects such as pitches, competitions and women's football, and each association has access of up to US$500,000 per year for running costs in areas including administration and governance.”

Mr Infantino tells us that, “There is more funding and more oversight and more control because we must make sure that the money we invest goes where it has to go, which is in football development projects. So, for the first time we have implemented some very in-depth control mechanisms with central audits. For example, as of this year, we will audit all 211 member associations of FIFA as far as funds from FIFA are concerned, but more than that, we have put in place other mechanisms such as what we call contract of agreed objectives, which is a contract that we sign with each individual association all over the world on how the funds are allocated, where this can be controlled and checked…”

The aim, then, is to build a culture of efficiency and accountability at all levels, including FIFA's member federations. Those who have followed football closely down the years, locally, regionally and internationally, can only applaud.

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