“We will restore the image of FIFA.” That quote from Gianni Infantino, following his election as the ninth President of FIFA, set the tone for the news report of the event featured by the Le Monde, a leading French daily. The quote acknowledged the current challenge facing FIFA, whose image has been tarnished by a series of scandals. The main problems cited by Le Monde are more than enough cause for concern. That is the arrest of 41 FIFA functionaries on a variety of financial fraud charges involving over US$ 150 million.
LeMonde expressed some skepticism about an appealing position of Infantino which helped him secure his election with 115 votes. FIFA’s new President would like to distribute US$ 5 million each year to each national soccer federation that participates in FIFA, including small countries like the Seychelles Islands and Bhutan for which US$ 5 million would mean a huge increase in the annual budget. FIFA’s current deficit is over US$ 100 million a year and it is not clear how FIFA would be able to finance the expenditure of US $1.2 billion a year mandated by Infantino’s pledge.
The UK Guardian added to the skepticism about Infantino’s pledge by projecting that FIFA’s deficit will rise from US$ 100 million last year to US$ 550 million this year. Part of the bad news is an off-season phenomenon. FIFA revenues typically drop in the year when neither the Women’s World Cup nor men’s World Cup or Federations Cup contests take place. But FIFA is also dealing with the departure of longtime sponsors like Sony and Johnson & Johnson. The Guardian gave Infantino a pass and cited his optimistic view of his track record at UEFA, the European regional soccer federation, where revenues increased each year during his career there.
The South China Morning Post of Hong Kong added a regional perspective with the report “Asia calls for unity to drive Fifa reforms after Infantino win.” The Post called Infantino’s win a surprise, reflecting the strong support that Asian delegate’s had pledged to his main rival, Asian Football Confederation (AFC) head Sheikh Salman of Bahrain. The Post noted the growing importance of soccer in China’s sports community and China’s ambition of hosting the FIFA World Cup in the future. The paper cited recent signings of top international players by the Chinese Super League as a further reason that FIFA’s new leadership will be important for China.
Down under in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald spotlighted the importance of another vote at FIFA’s special election. That is a set of administrative reforms designed to discourage the crony deals that have tarnished FIFA so badly. With 179 of 201 votes cast, FIFA delegates approved motions to limit term to a total of twelve years and replace the 24 member executive committee with a 36 member council. The Sydney Morning Herald also reported plans for an independent compliance committee.
Meanwhile, back home in Atlanta, the home of FIFA’s key sponsor Coca-Cola, the local daily of record, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, had nothing original to contribute to the subject of Infantino’s election as FIFA’s new President. The daily simply republished international news agency reports about the election and added nothing on its opinion pages.