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Opinion: Infantino's FIFA — few ethics, lots of money

DW's Stefan Nestler
Stefan Nestler
November 17, 2022

FIFA head Gianni Infantino will run unopposed in the next presidential election. That's an indictment, DW's Stefan Nestler finds, but also the state of world football.

Gianni Infantino has his hand on a soccer ball
Infantino has created a FIFA in which opponents know they stand little chanceImage: William West/AFP

Gianni Infantino is staying. The 52-year-old Swiss functionary can bank on a third term as FIFA president and can now calmly follow the controversial World Cup in Qatar.

The deadline for new candidates for the next presidential election has come and gone without anyone being found to run against Infantino at the world football body's congress next year in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. But, then again, who would run for a position in which the chance of success was essentially zero?

By the end of October, the football confederations in Asia, Africa, South America and Oceania had already officially and unanimously backed Infantino. That already gives him a reassuring majority share of 121 of 211 votes, regardless of what the representatives from Europe and North and Central America decide.

The fact that no one has the courage to openly oppose the FIFA head and stand up to him in the election is an indictment. But it also says a lot about the state of the organization.

Criticism not welcome

Portrait of Stefan Nestler: Man wearing glasses and sports coat, cross-striped shirt
DW's Stefan Nestler

To the outside world, FIFA likes to sell itself as a nonprofit, democratic organization. In reality, however, it is a tightly managed, profit-oriented football business enterprise in which criticism is unwelcome.

Infantino has been at the helm of FIFA since 2016, appointed after a major corruption scandal that doomed his predecessor, Sepp Blatter. He had promised a "new era" where football would once again take center stage. Less commerce, more transparency.

The opposite has turned out to be the case. Unpopular investigators from his own ranks were removed. FIFA's ethics regulations, adopted in 2018, no longer even include the term "corruption." Instead, FIFA introduced statutes of limitations for ethics violations and deterred potential whistleblowers, who now could face fines or suspensions.

Since then, Infantino has little to fear from his own ranks. This is despite the fact that the Swiss judiciary is still breathing down his neck — because of, among other things, secret meetings with the former Swiss prosecutor investigating FIFA at the time. Infantino has denied all the accusations.

Top priority: Keep bringing in the cash

Most FIFA members don't seem to care about any of this. The main thing is that the money is still rolling in, which Infantino is doing without a doubt. What's more is that he regularly lures members with the prospect of even more money, such as his plan to hold future World Cup every two years — the idea has been shelved after fierce opposition from Europe and South America.

Infantino will surely come up with another profitable plan after his reelection. That's how FIFA still works: if pockets are full, the right man is in charge, and football is only a means to that end.

This opinion article was adapted from German.