Gianni Infantino’s election as the new FIFA President has been welcomed by Vladimir Putin.
The Swiss was elected to replace disgraced compatriot Sepp Blatter at an Extraordinary Congress of football’s governing body here yesterday, after claiming 115 votes in the second round.
That was enough to give the 45-year-old UEFA general secretary a majority and see off the bid of Asian Football Confederation head Shaikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, his nearest challenger.
Putin, the Russian President, was glowing in praise for Infantino who he will work with ahead of the 2018 World Cup in the country.
“Your active and fruitful work at international sport organisations and a significant personal contribution to the development of the football movement have helped you to gain prominence and authority,” he said to Infantino in a statement released by the Kremlin.
“I am sure that your professional experience and huge creative and organisational potential will help you in your work at the new responsible post and will contribute to strengthening FIFA’s global positions.”
Russia’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko, who heads the Russian Football Union and is a member of FIFA’s ruling Executive Committee, also welcomed the election of Infantino after the country officially backed him earlier this month.
The support came even though Mutko had criticised Infantino’s idea to hold World Cups across entire regions instead of just in single countries.
“I am satisfied,” Mutko told TASS.
“The world of football needs such a rational and practical person.”
Australia, who voted for rival candidate Prince Ali of Jordan, also welcomed the new man and said there was reason for optimism after the corruption scandals which have rocked FIFA in recent months.
An extensive set of reforms were also approved yesterday by FIFA’s member associations.
“Today was the best day FIFA has had in many years,” said Football Federation Australia (FFA) chairman Steven Lowry.
“The mood for change was in the air and the congress voted overwhelmingly to move forward with a new structure and new leadership to implement it.”
Elsewhere, the Green Party in Great Britain called on Infantino to move the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to England and Wales due to allegations of poor conditions for workers in the Gulf country.
“FIFA’s awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar has rightly caused a great deal of anger because of the poor conditions and rights given to workers there,” a statement from the political party said.
“To mark an end to the old regime, Infantino should move the tournament to England and Wales.”
Campaign group #NewFIFANow said the reforms, which included measures to limit the term of the President to four three-year terms and introduce greater gender balance within the governing body, did not go far enough.
“Notwithstanding that some reforms are inarguable and welcome, #NewFIFANow believes that they do not address the fundamental structural flaws within football nor, importantly, its culture,” said a statement.
“The reforms fail to make football accountable to the two most important stakeholders in the game – players and fans, as well as the clubs and leagues in which they play and that they support.
“We are of the view that expanding the membership of the FIFA Council and potentially the World Cup, does not address what it is purports to do, but entrench a larger power elite.”
- By Liam Morgan in Zurich; republished with permission insidethegames.biz