Paris: Globe-trotting FIFA president Gianni Infantino, set to be re-elected unopposed on Wednesday, will have plenty of unfinished business in his second mandate, having seen his grandiose plans for football partly frustrated in his first term.
The Swiss lawyer has visited dozens of countries, from Sao Tome and Principe to Papua New Guinea, swept away much of the administration of disgraced predecessor Sepp Blatter, mingled with heads of state and introduced revolutionary technology into the game since taking charge in February 2016.
Yet, some feel Infantino has gone too fast for his own good while his plans have alarmed traditionalists and upset powerful European clubs.
Infantino succeeded in his first major reform when, less than one year after his election, his plan to increase the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams from 2026 onwards was easily passed by the FIFA Council.
“It’s not the 20th century any more. It’s the 21st century,” said Infantino, although many disliked the format — featuring awkward groups of three teams in the first round — and worried that it would dilute the achievement of qualifying in the first place.
Meanwhile, his proposal to create a 24-team Club World Cup and establish FIFA in the lucrative world of club football has run into opposition and a planned global version of UEFA’s Nations League — in effect a mini-World Cup every two years — has been shunted into a siding.
Eager to increase FIFA’s revenue streams, which depend almost exclusively on the four-yearly World Cup, Infantino said the proposed new tournaments were backed by an investment consortium willing to put in $25 billion over a 12-year cycle.
The Club World Cup was approved in March and will start in 2021 although the European Club Association (ECA), which includes all of Europe’s top clubs, said its members would not take part because there was no room in the international calendar.
UEFA was also concerned about a lack of information on the investors, something Infantino said he could not reveal because of a non-disclosure agreement.
Meanwhile, the Nations League was put on hold because a suitable format had not been found.
Another Infantino idea, to bring forward the 48-team World Cup to 2022 in Qatar, had to be ditched after it was found to be unworkable following what FIFA described as an “extensive consultation process”....