Gianni Infantino says ‘money doesn’t disappear anymore’ at FIFA
FIFA has been able to support the game through the coronavirus crisis because “the money doesn’t disappear anymore”, president Gianni Infantino has said.
The organisation’s Covid-19 relief plan will distribute 1.5 billion US dollars (£1.16bn) to national associations and regional confederations affected by the pandemic, something Infantino suggested would not have been possible under the previous regime, which was dogged by allegations and proven cases of corruption.
“We have the money (to help) because in the new FIFA, the money doesn’t disappear,” he said at the opening of the FIFA Congress, being held as a virtual event.
“We have designed a robust programme, with accountability and good governance.
“We will know exactly where (the money) goes, and why it goes there. It will be fully transparent.”
National associations will be able to apply for up to 1.5 million US dollars (£1.15m) in grants and a maximum of 5m US dollars (£3.86m) in interest-free loans.
The FIFA administration and consultancy experts estimate the domestic club and national team game will lose 14bn US dollars (almost £11bn) in value due to the pandemic.
Infantino added: “There are still forces that want to drag us back into the darkness of the past, because they don’t like reforms or want to hide their malpractice.
“But there is no way back (for those people).”
Criminal proceedings were opened against Infantino in July over three meetings he held in 2016 and 2017 with the then Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber after his election as FIFA president.
Infantino insists he did nothing wrong in attending those meetings, and indeed met with the United States attorney general earlier this week.
Infantino said: “Everywhere people are convinced of the new FIFA, or maybe I should say almost everywhere.
“But don’t worry, we will be able to convince the sceptics eventually. (The meetings with Lauber) were meant to define that the new FIFA was miles away from the old FIFA.
“FIFA became victim to corrupt officials – that’s not what I say, that’s what courts say all over the world, and FIFA is still suffering from that.”
FIFA’s former secretary general Jerome Valcke is currently standing trial in Switzerland over alleged criminal mismanagement while in office in relation to the sale of media rights. He denies the charges he faces. Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter remains under criminal investigation in Switzerland over an alleged undue payment to former UEFA president Michel Platini.
Infantino continued: “In 2015 FIFA was toxic, was pronounced dead. An organisation that had served itself from football, had used football, instead of serving football.
“So why was I meeting the Swiss attorney general? Because it was my duty as FIFA president because I wanted to liberate FIFA from those old, toxic values.
“No organisation can be led into the future if you don’t resolve the past,” Infantino added.
Infantino described racism as “a virus that has seen a re-emergence this year” in football.
“You could say racism and discrimination is part of society, but no. We can’t say that, we won’t say that,” he said.
“Racists have no place in football. We need to talk about the problem instead of hiding it. We need strict sanctions.”
Infantino added that match-fixing was “eating football in its soul”.