The soccer world was shocked on February 26 to learn that Swiss candidate Gianni Infantino had been elected as leader of FIFA. The new leader was voted in with 115 votes on the first count at the organization’s extraordinary congress in Zurich. He replaces disgraced former president Sepp Blatter. In reaction to Infantino’s election, Blatter said that Infantino “has all the qualities to continue my work.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Wants to Spread the World Cup Across Different Nations
The biggest question is if Infantino will really change things at FIFA. His manifesto, which was detailed by the New York Times in the days leading up to the vote, includes the regionalization of the World Cup. He wants to spread the tournament across different countries. Infantino was a major force behind having the European Championships in 2020 in different nations.
The Associated Press reported on February 23 that Infantino believes that that the World Cup should not be monopolized by one country. Only once, in 2002, the World Cup was shared between Japan and South Korea. Even in that case, South Korea has struggled to maintain the stadium built for the tournament. In more recent years, Brazil’s issues with the super stadiums left over from the 2014 World Cup have been well documented.
2. He Wants to Expand the World Cup From 32 Teams to 42 Teams
He also wants to expand the World Cup to 40 teams from the current 32. The tournament has been at that number since 1998, previously there were 24 teams competing. The Washington Post reports that those numbers would be made up of 14 from Europe, Seven from Africa, Seven from Asia, Six from South America, five from North and Central America, and one from Oceania. He told the newspaper that this project was based on the success he had with bringing the European Championships from 16 teams to 24 in 2016. Infantino said in his manifesto, “This has already been a huge success, from a sporting, promotional and commercial point of view and I know we can do something similar for the FIFA World Cup.”
3. He Wants to Introduce More Technology Into Soccer
Infantino is a proponent of bringing technology into soccer, unlike his former boss at UEFA, Michel Platini. In fact, the Swiss national only entered the race after Platini got dragged into the U.S. Justice Department’s investigation of soccer officials. In the manifesto, Infantino said, “FIFA shall start an open debate with all stakeholders on the further use of technology in the game. Proposals should be fully tested and the potential impact on the flow of the game should be studied in detail. Finally, this has to be an objective assessment based on the best interests of football.”
4. The World Soccer Player’s Union Do Not Support Infantino’s Election
In a statement released upon Infantino’s Election, FIFPro, the world’s players’ union, said:
FIFPro takes a dim view of today’s FIFA election that leaves the new President, Gianni Infantino, entrenched in a governance structure and culture that is open to corrupt practices.
Despite a package of reforms approved today by FIFA, FIFPro fears placing increased power in the hands of FIFA’s 209 member associations lies at the heart of the problem. These organisations are not representative of the game and, yet, wield enormous influence over issues that affect key stakeholders such as the players, fans, clubs and leagues.
The newly-adopted reforms failed to address the fundamental issue of making football authorities accountable to the game’s most important actors.
5. He’s Going to Spread the Wealth Even More
Infantino’s manifesto includes promises of financial rewards for member nations. Around $5 million will be given for projects, that will be up from $2 million during Blatter’s reign, reports the Washington Post. It’s not clear if this will be a continuation of Sepp Blatter’s controversial FIFA Goal project.