Sepp Blatter’s 18 year reign over football is over. 18 years that bought about some of football’s darkest days has ended, and must be replaced by a more prosperous time for the sport. Electing Gianni Infantino as its new president can only be the start of the changes that Fifa must undergo.
The final week of May 2015 can only be seen as the most damning in football history. A number of key officials, including Jack Warner and Jeffrey Webb, vice-presidents to Blatter, were arrested in Zurich in connection with investigations into corruption at the heart of football’s governing body. Many football fans’ worst fears were confirmed just days later, when Blatter was re-elected as Fifa president despite all the signs pointing to corruption taking place right under his nose.
There did eventually appear to be light at the end of the tunnel when the 79-year-old resigned just days later, much to the shock of the football world. It later transpired that he was under investigation from the CIA, and is now facing a six-year ban from all football activity for an unethical payment made to former UEFA president Michel Platini, who is serving a similar ban. However, simply electing a new president will not change Fifa sufficiently.
On Friday, Gianni Infantino was the shock winner of the presidential elections, beating overwhelming favourite Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa by winning 115 votes to Salman’s 88 after the first round failed to find a clear winner. Infantino, who only made the decision to run for presidency after Platini’s suspension, won crucial votes from countries in Asia and Africa, both of whose governing bodies declared their support for Sheikh Salman.
Despite his victory, there is still an awful lot of work to do for Infantino. A number of current and ex Fifa officials are facing indictment to the USA to face charges of corruption, and there is still a complete lack of confidence in the organisation from fans and officials alike. Controversy still surrounds the awarding of World Cups to Russia and Qatar, with bribery allegations still shrouding the competitions in doubt.
Next week a report is to released on alleged dubious payments by the German FA to Fifa before the World Cup held there in 2006, after it emerged £4.6 million was paid to Fifa. This issue highlights the challenges that Infantino faces. He must restore faith in the organisation after years of controversy, and will face some tough questions on the future of football’s most powerful corporation.
The 45-year-old has promised to disclose his salary to the public, something which could be crucial with many calling for more transparency within Fifa. The football community will want to be aware of the goings on at Fifa, especially given the disaster that came about in the behind-closed-doors antics of the previous establishment.
Infantino’s long-term ambitions involve the creation of a so-called ‘Legends Team’ to play friendly matches around the world, and the introduction of a 40-team World Cup. But, the new most powerful man in football must focus on reforming Fifa, and earn the trust of those who voted against him, many of whom questioned his loyalty to the disgraced Michel Platini.