Gianni Infantino appeared as a surprise on-stage guest at the Swiss Economic Forum in Montreux, and in an interview that touched on a range of topics, the FIFA President looked back on the institutional and cultural overhaul he has led since taking over an organisation mired in crisis in 2016.
“FIFA had become a ‘self-service shop’ where hundreds of millions went missing,” the FIFA President said. “We had to change that. We had to change people’s mentality.”
He contrasted the situation four and a half years ago with the post-reform organisation of today: “Today, we can track every franc that comes into FIFA: where it comes from and where it goes. You just have to take the time to read through the thick stack of financial statements.”
President Infantino also highlighted the transparency that has been brought to FIFA’s most important procedures: “Over the last 100 years, there have been repeated scandals concerning the bidding for the World Cup. We have now awarded two World Cups in the last two years without scandal. Why? Because everything is professional, because everything is transparent.”
Focus on Switzerland
Addressing an audience of distinguished Swiss entrepreneurs, President Infantino – who hails from the canton of Valais – also spoke candidly about accusations concerning his meetings with former Swiss Federal Prosecutor Michael Lauber and how these have affected him.
“Naturally, this matter has affected me greatly. Above all, because it concerns FIFA. We have invested so much to change FIFA. It is precisely because of all the investment we have made in the new-found credibility of FIFA, it has really hit me hard.”
“I met with the Federal Prosecutor because I wanted to finally banish the shadows of FIFA’s past, because you cannot lead an organisation into the future if you haven’t dealt with its past. It was very clear to me that I had to do everything I could to get FIFA back on the right track. Part of that was to meet with the Federal Prosecutor to see how we could speed up the ongoing proceedings, some of which are still pending even now.”
Reflecting on FIFA’s relationship with Switzerland, where it is headquartered, President Infantino expressed his regret at not having given greater importance to strengthening local ties.
“I must admit that in the last four years we have paid more attention to the world and less to Switzerland. We have failed to explain to the people in Switzerland what we are doing and this has led to misunderstandings about FIFA and about me as a person. Now we want to put that right.”
Positive for the future
Speaking on the future of football in the era of COVID-19, the FIFA President was cautiously optimistic. “No, I am not afraid. We have to have a plan B, a plan C, and a plan D in place. We have protocols that we discuss with the authorities and the World Health Organization. It is not easy, but we have to get through this and we can only get through this together. We have all been taken by surprise by this virus. But we must also be positive for the future.”
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