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FIFA Präsident Gianni Infantino
Image: Getty Images/AFP/G. Caddick

Opinion: FIFA's 'new era' is looking a lot like the old one

Chuck Penfold
June 3, 2016

More than three months after FIFA elected a new president, there have been repeated allegations of wrongdoing at world soccer's governing body. The"new era" at FIFA seems strikingly familiar, writes DW's Chuck Penfold.

https://p.dw.com/p/1Izu6

Let's get one thing straight: None of the recent allegations against Gianni Infantino have been proved. And the accused must be regarded as innocent until proven guilty.

However, as the old saying goes; where there is smoke, there is usually fire. And there has been plenty of smoke surrounding the FIFA president who was elected to the post on February 26 on a promise to reform the organization, which has been tainted by a series of scandals over the past couple of years. Some of the allegations that have emerged have led to criminal investigations, indictments issued by the US Department of Justice, and the suspensions from football of former longtime FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, the former president of UEFA, the European governing body and Infantino's former employer.

It has been almost 100 days (98 to be exact), since Infantino took office promising to clean up FIFA, and many wished him well in that endeavor, assuming the days of nasty little secrets emerging from the world governing body would soon be a thing of the past. And 100 days is often regarded as the timeframe in which any new leader of an organization, political party or even government needs to set the wheels of changes in motion, if they are to be ultimately realized. However, 100 (almost) days into Infantino's reign, it all seems like more of the same.

Penfold Charles Kommentarbild App
DW editor Chuck Penfold

First, FIFA's audit and compliance chief, Domenico Scala, resigned last month after the new FIFA Council voted in a meeting in Mexico City to give itself the power to fire the elected heads of the independent audit and ethics committees. Scala said the move would lead to the independent overseers being "deprived of their independence and are in danger of becoming auxiliary agents of those whom they should actually supervise."

Then there was the sacking of FIFA's deputy general secretary, Markus Kattner after an internal investigation turned up "breaches of his fiduciary responsibilities in connection with his employment." FIFA didn't say specifically what he was accused of and neither side has commented since. However the German Sunday paper "Welt am Sonntag" reported that in early May, Kattner had informed Scala of a number of ethics violations allegedly committed by Infantino.

A report that he rejected an annual salary of two million Swiss francs (1.8 million euros, $2 million) proposed by Scala's committee as "insulting" isn't particularly endearing either.

Now FIFA has been forced to deny a report published by the German daily "Die Welt" that Infantino could face a 90-day suspension over allegations that he improperly ordered an audio recording of a meeting at the Congress in Mexico be deleted.

Again, no wrongdoing has been proved. Innocent until proven guilty? Of course. But it sure seems a far cry from the "new era" at FIFA that Infantino had promised us.

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