Infantino remains focused on 'bringing football back to FIFA'

Sunday, January 21, 2018

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FIFA p resident Giovanni “Gianni” Infantino believes that his administration is well on its way to “bringing football back to FIFA, and the FIFA back to football”, as per his campaign promise more than two years ago.

The 47-year-old former FIFA general secretary, who replaced Joseph “Sepp” Blatter in February 2016 after an embarrassing period when the sport was badly hurt by an earth-shaking corruption scandal, is of the view that transparency with financial dealings goes a far way in solving such problems.

“This was my campaign motto to bring football back to FIFA and FIFA back to football, because unfortunately some court said maybe that FIFA lost a little bit of this concept and concentrated on other matters which were not much to do with football.

“…I think we have to come back to the roots or what we are there for, which is football,” he told local journalists at the end of a FIFA Executive Football Summit at Montego Bay Convention Centre last Thursday.

He added: “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.”

The Swiss/Italian explained that this was why FIFA executed these summits where “we speak about football, we speak about competitions, we speak about competition formats”.

“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.

“And when we leave, we leave an organisation healthy and which is an example for the world, and this we can do only if we focus on football, focus on the development of the game and all over the world — that's what we try to do and that is why we have come to Jamaica, because the world of football is not only a few countries,” noted Infantino.

The FIFA boss, who was visiting Jamaica for the first time, said he was pleased with the progress being made by his organisation in not only cleaning up the sport, but also putting in place mechanisms which will ensure proper management practices by all and sundry.

“Yes, I am pleased at where we are. I think that objectively if we compare what we are doing now to what was done in the past — and I think the same goes for CONCACAF -- certainly there is no comparison… to look at our books, to look at our financial reports, to look at our governance reports, to look at membership of our independent bodies, to look at the reforms that we have put in place… everything is there.

“In the past, FIFA had some line items in its accounts —other costs US$100 million —and nobody knew what these 'other costs' were and now every cost has to be outlined,” he stated.

The FIFA has replaced the Blatter-initiated FIFA GOAL Project with the FIFA FORWARD Programme, which is a global football development and the way it shares the World Cup success with member associations.

It was built on three main principles —more investment, more impact, and more oversight — to provide support for football development in each member association, so that the sport can reach its potential in every nation.

“The Goal Project doesn't exist anymore, now it's the Forward Programme and it has significantly changed in the way in which we are implementing it,” Infantino explained.

“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,” said the head of world football.

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.

Also, confederations now receive US$40 million per four-year cycle for football development up from US$22 million. The FIFA is providing extra help to member associations that need it —from football equipment and internship programmes as much as to US$1 million to cover travel costs so that women's and youth teams can compete in international competitions.

FIFA also gives regional associations up to US$1 million per year to reimburse the cost of organising regional youth competitions for young women and men.

As part of the Forward Programme's annual running costs per association, members receive basic support of US$100,000 per year. They can then receive an additional US$50,000 for each of the following criteria they fulfill, up to an additional US$400,000 each year — employing a general secretary, employing a technical director, organising a men's league, organising a women's league, organising a men's youth league, organising a women's youth league, women's football promotion and development strategy, good governance/integrity programme, grass roots football promotion and development strategy, and refereeing promotion and development strategy. At least two of the areas that member associations can focus on for this extra funding must cover women's football.

“We do whatever we can to make sure this is happening. And I think that the mechanisms that we've put in place, and I just mention too that many of them are detailed regulations in that respect are state-of-the-art and everyone today knows that if he or she wants to divert some of this money for personal benefits we will not tolerate that and there would be serious sanctions,” warned Infantino.

— Ian Burnett

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