Infantino To ‘Respect’ Any Ethics Committee Decision – FIFA

Qatar Must Host Best World Cup Ever, Infantino Warns
In this file photo taken on March 18, 2016 FIFA President Gianni Infantino gives a press conference following an executive meeting of the world football governing body at its headquarters in Zurich. 
MICHAEL BUHOLZER / AFP

 

 

 

FIFA president Gianni Infantino will “respect any decision by the ethics committee”, world football’s governing body said Monday after Swiss authorities opened criminal proceedings against him last week. 

A Swiss special prosecutor has launched proceedings against Infantino, as part of an investigation into suspected collusion with the country’s attorney general, Michael Lauber. Both have denied any wrongdoing.

“I’ve no doubt that Gianni Infantino would respect any decision by the ethics commission,” FIFA deputy secretary general Alasdair Bell told a video news conference. “We don’t see any evidence of criminal or unethical behaviour,” he said.

FIFA on Sunday insisted Infantino would continue to fulfil his duties as president and blasted the Swiss probe.

 

FIFA President Gianni Infantino addresses the media during a press conference following the FIFA Council Meetings in Miami, Florida, on March 15, 2019. Infantino on Friday confirmed plans to launch an expanded 24-team Club World Cup in 2021 following a meeting in Miami. The new tournament, which has drawn threats of a boycott from leading European clubs, is to be staged in June-July 2021 instead of the Confederations Cup. RHONA WISE / AFP.
FILE PHOTO: FIFA President Gianni Infantino addresses the media during a press conference following the FIFA Council Meetings in Miami, Florida, on March 15, 2019. RHONA WISE / AFP.

 

 

It gave no indication on Monday whether or not its ethics committee had instigated proceedings against Infantino.

“The ethics committee will have to come to its own conclusion… In every case, it needs to be tested, if there’s something serious, there’s a case for suspension,” said Bell.

Questioned about Infantino’s absence during Monday’s video conference, Bell said the FIFA chief “will be available and will speak in order to clear his name.”

He added: “FIFA and Gianni Infantino have absolutely nothing to hide, we want to be transparent. There’s no factual basis for this criminal procedure.”

Infantino and Lauber are said to have held a series of meetings in 2016 and 2017.

Two such meetings were initially exposed in 2018 by “Football Leaks”, a cross-border investigation by several European news organisations.

In a statement Thursday, Swiss authorities said special prosecutor Stefan Keller “has reached the conclusion that…there are indications of criminal conduct” in relation to meetings between Infantino, Lauber and another official, Rinaldo Arnold.

“This concerns abuse of public office, breach of official secrecy, assisting offenders and incitement to these acts,” the authorities said.

Lauber, who offered his resignation on July 24, was in charge of Switzerland’s probe into the towering corruption scandal that exploded at the heart of Zurich-based FIFA in 2015.

But he was forced to recuse himself from the investigation in June 2019, following media revelations that he had held several undeclared meetings with Infantino during the probe.

Switzerland has pursued a number of cases since a raid on a luxury hotel in Zurich in May 2015 led to the arrests of a several FIFA executives and exposed an allegedly corrupt underbelly in world football.

In total, more than 20 FIFA proceedings have been opened in Switzerland over the past five years into allegations of corruption and vote-buying, and allegations over the awarding of television rights contracts.

AFP

FIFA President Infantino Faces Swiss Criminal Probe

 

File photo: FIFA President Gianni Infantino addresses the media during a press conference following the FIFA Council Meetings in Miami, Florida, on March 15, 2019. RHONA WISE / AFP.

 

 

A Swiss special prosecutor has launched criminal proceedings against FIFA president Gianni Infantino, authorities in Switzerland said Thursday, as part of an investigation into suspected collusion between him and the country’s Attorney General, Michael Lauber.

In a statement, authorities said special prosecutor Stefan Keller “has reached the conclusion that…there are indications of criminal conduct” in relation to meetings between Infantino, Lauber and another official, Rinaldo Arnold.

“This concerns abuse of public office, breach of official secrecy, assisting offenders and incitement to these acts,” the authorities said.

Infantino has not denied that the meetings took place and continued to defend his actions.

“To meet with the Attorney General of Switzerland is perfectly legitimate and it’s perfectly legal,” he said in a statement released by FIFA.

“It’s no violation of anything. On the contrary, it is also part of the fiduciary duties of the president of FIFA.”

 

File photo: FIFA president Gianni Infantino speaks during the inauguration of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) new headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on October 30, 2018. Mohd RASFAN / AFP

 

Lauber resigned last week over his handling of a corruption investigation targeting world football’s troubled governing body.

Infantino and Lauber are said to have held a series of meetings in 2016 and 2017.

Two such meetings were initially exposed in 2018 by “Football Leaks”, a cross-border investigation by several European news organisations.

Like Infantino, Lauber has denied any wrongdoing.

Lauber was in charge of Switzerland’s probe into the corruption scandal that exploded at the heart of FIFA in 2015.

The scandal erupted when Swiss police in May that year raided a luxury hotel in Zurich before dawn, arresting a number of top football officials.

The Swiss judiciary under Lauber quickly opened criminal proceedings against then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter and other top officials.

 

File photo: Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter gestures during a press conference in Zurich on March 8, 2018. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

Blatter was eventually removed in 2015 and Infantino took over as FIFA president in 2016.

“It has been my aim from day one, and it remains my aim, to assist the authorities with investigating past wrongdoings at FIFA,” Infantino insisted.

“FIFA officials have met with prosecutors in other jurisdictions across the world for exactly these purposes.

“People have been convicted and sentenced, thanks to FIFA’s cooperation, and especially in the United States of America, where our cooperation has resulted in over 40 criminal convictions.

“Therefore, I remain fully supportive of the judicial process, and FIFA remains willing to fully cooperate with the Swiss authorities for these purposes.”

Lauber, 54, has denied accusations that he lied about the meetings but is also under criminal investigation.

A Swiss parliamentary commission decided in May to open proceedings against Lauber over “well-founded suspicion of serious violation of the duties of office either intentionally or by gross negligence”, which risked seeing him sacked.

Previously Lauber had been docked five percent of his salary — reduced from eight percent on appeal — following a disciplinary probe which found that he had repeatedly lied when questions were raised about the FIFA investigation.

Arnold, meanwhile, is a childhood friend of Infantino’s who went on to become a senior prosecutor in Switzerland’s Haut-Valais region where they grew up.

In April a Swiss newspaper, the Tribune de Geneve, alleged that Infantino wrote to Arnold after becoming “worried” about an investigation into him by the country’s Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in relation to his awarding of a television rights contract to an offshore company in his previous role as UEFA’s legal affairs director.

FIFA responded to that report by saying that emails referred to in the newspaper’s article were “obviously obtained by hacking, which is an illegal and criminal act.”

AFP

 

Australia And New Zealand To Host FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023

 

The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 will be staged in Australia and New Zealand, following a vote taken by the FIFA Council during its meeting held via videoconference, the result of which was announced by FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

The joint bid submitted by Football Federation Australia and New Zealand Football received 22 of the 35 valid votes cast by the FIFA Council members in the first ballot, with the Colombian Football Association having obtained 13 votes. The full voting results are available below.

Following on from the astounding success of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019™ in France and the subsequent unanimous decision by the FIFA Council, the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 will be the first edition to feature 32 teams and it will also be the first to be hosted by Australia and New Zealand and across two confederations (AFC and OFC).

Swiss Prosecutors Expand Investigation Into Former FIFA Chief, Sepp Blatter

A file photo of former FIFA chief, Sepp Blatter.
A file photo of former FIFA chief, Sepp Blatter.

 

Swiss prosecutors have opened a fresh investigation targeting former FIFA chief Sepp Blatter for suspected criminal mismanagement of funds over a decade-old $1 million payment, AFP learned Saturday.

The probe, opened last month, is connected with a loan FIFA gave to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFF) in 2010, which was given interest-free, with no collateral, and was quickly forgiven as a “subsidy”, a document seen by AFP showed.

This marks the latest in a string of allegations of improper FIFA-linked payments to Trinidad’s long-serving FIFA official Jack Warner, who has been banned from football for life and is battling extradition to the US from his native Trinidad.

The Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) confirmed in a statement that it had in May this year “extended the criminal proceedings” against the former FIFA president.

It added that two other former high-level FIFA officials, former secretary general Jerome Valcke and ex-FIFA financial director Markus Kattner, were also targeted.

An OAG spokesperson meanwhile told AFP in an email that this was “not a new criminal proceeding against Joseph Blatter, it is in addition to the overall criminal proceedings against Joseph Blatter.”

The 84-year-old former FIFA chief himself told AFP that he had been “informed of the accusation, and I totally reject its content.”

The news of the fresh leg of the probe comes after the OAG last month shelved part of the procedure opened against Blatter in 2015 on “suspicion of unfair management and breach of trust”.

It closed part of the investigation against him involving TV rights sold allegedly below market value to the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), at the time headed by Warner.

OAG stressed Saturday that other aspects of the criminal proceedings “are not affected by the decision to discontinue” the TV rights part of the probe.

“The criminal proceedings against the accused will continue,” the OAG statement said.

Swiss prosecutors have already made clear that another investigation, into a payment of two million Swiss francs (1.88 million euros) to Michel Platini, the former UEFA president, and FIFA executive committee member, was ongoing.

Blatter’s payment to Platini led to both men being banned from football, although the Frenchman was cleared by the Swiss courts in 2018.

FIFA Says Transfer Window Can Open Before End Of Season

File: FIFA President Gianni Infantino addresses the media during a press conference following the FIFA Council Meetings in Miami, Florida, on March 15, 2019. RHONA WISE / AFP.

 

FIFA will allow leagues to open their transfer windows before the current, delayed season has been completed as football recovers from the impact of the lengthy coronavirus shutdown, the game’s world governing body announced on Thursday.

FIFA has passed a series of temporary amendments to help deal with the havoc to the football calendar caused by the health crisis.

Most notably, these include allowing the “first registration period” — better known in Europe as the summer transfer window — to “overlap” with the delayed end to this season by up to four weeks.

In normal circumstances, the transfer window does not open until the season has been completed, but many leagues are only just restarting having been halted in March, and will not now finish in many cases until late July.

However, while transfers will be permitted before this season ends, clubs will not be able to field new signings until the next season begins.

The same rule will apply to players moving under freedom of contract.

The transfer window can stay open for up to 12 weeks.

Earlier on Thursday, the president of La Liga, Javier Tebas, indicated that the window in Spain would only open once the season has been completed and run from late July to early October.

Previously, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has said that the window in England will also only open once the season has finished.

In France, where the season was declared over in late April at the height of the pandemic, the domestic transfer window opened on Monday.

In the case of players whose existing contracts are due to expire before what will now be the end of this season, FIFA has called on clubs to extend those deals “in good faith and on terms that are equitable and reasonable.”

Many players in Europe are set to be out of contract on June 30, several weeks before the campaign now concludes.

FIFA has also recommended that players who have signed pre-contract agreements to join new clubs on July 1 be allowed to stay at their current clubs until the season ends.

Meanwhile, it has also introduced an amendment allowing players who are free agents to play for three different clubs in the course of the same season “in order to avoid any concerns regarding unemployed players”.

Usually players can only represent two clubs in the same season.

AFP

FIFA Open To Salary Cap And Transfer Fee Limit Proposals

FIFA President, Gianni Infantino

 

FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Saturday called for discussions over proposals to introduce salary and transfer fee caps to football in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

World football’s governing body intends to finalise plans in the coming weeks for a financial relief package following the economic damage caused to the sport by the global health crisis.

FIFA announced in April it would release $150 million (133 million euros) to its 211 member associations “as the first step of a relief plan”. UEFA shortly afterwards said it had allocated 236.5 million euros to its 55 member federations.

Last month, the German FA and Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge urged industry talks about a salary cap and reforming the transfer system to keep football “credible”.

“On the financial and governance aspects, I also heard some interesting proposals on a wide range of topics,” Infantino wrote in an open letter to FIFA’s members.

“From salary caps to transfer fee caps or other taxation mechanisms, to the possible obligation for governing bodies, competition organisers and clubs to build reserves or to contribute to a reserve fund which can be of assistance in hours of need such as now.

“I personally advocate for clearer and stricter financial regulations, imposing full transparency and good governance principles, and not only limiting this to the transfer system, but to the entire football ecosystem.

“FIFA is doing already a lot of work on this area, even if we face some strong vested interests who fight against our plea for better global governance in our sport.”

A recent study by accounting firm KPMG said the transfer value of players in 10 of Europe’s top leagues could plummet by up to 10 billion euros due to the economic crash caused by a coronavirus.

‘Balanced’ international calendar 

The French league declared over in late April, said it would have to take out a government-guaranteed loan of some 225 million euros to tide over clubs impacted by the loss in income from broadcasters.

Last season’s Champions League finalists Tottenham have received a £175 million loan from the Bank of England to help them through the crisis as the club predicted losses of £200 million over the next year.

Infantino is hoping to push through the rescue package by the time of the next FIFA Council meeting later this month.

“The need for top club football to resume has understandably taken priority, but we must also consider national teams, women’s football, lower-tier domestic leagues, youth and the grassroots game,” Infantino said.

“We have to show unity across all aspects of football and make sure football can resume in its globality. This is our priority and our financial relief plan will also follow this principle.”

While domestic leagues are gradually restarting, the international calendar has been decimated with Euro 2020 and the Copa America both postponed until next year.

However, Infantino said a reworked international schedule could be published shortly.

“On another very important topic, namely the international match calendar, I am happy to report that we also made some good progress,” he said.

“In consultation with different stakeholders, we are closer to present a balanced solution that takes into account everyone’s challenges and needs.”

AFP

FIFA Postpones Women’s Under-17 World Cup To 2021

FIFA President Gianni Infantino addresses the media during a press conference following the FIFA Council Meetings in Miami, Florida, on March 15, 2019. RHONA WISE / AFP.

 

The women’s Under-17 World Cup, due to be held in India in November, has been postponed for three month, FIFA said Tuesday, adding to a growing list of sporting events hit by the pandemic.

The tournament, to be played in five cities across the country, will now start February 17, football’s governing body said.

India is looking to boost its international standing as a host of top sporting events after holding the men’s Under-17 World Cup in 2017.

“All the host cities have put in a lot of effort and commitment so far, and we are happy that the new dates will allow them to make up for the lost time and provide momentum going forward,” the local organising committee said after the FIFA announcement.

FIFA also unveiled new dates for this year’s U-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica and Panama. It will now be played from January 20 to February 6, 2021.

The 2020 FIFA Futsal World Cup in Lithuania has been pushed back to September 12 next year.

READ ALSO: Spain Unveils 14-day Quarantine For Arrivals

Meanwhile, the 70th FIFA Congress, which was due to be held in Addis Ababa, will be run as an online event on September 18.

The coronavirus has brought international sport to a standstill, but some football leagues are restarting — albeit behind closed doors.

South Korea’s K-League came back to life last Friday and Germany’s Bundesliga football championship is to restart this weekend in empty stadiums.

AFP

COVID-19: ‘No Match Worth Risking A Life,’ Says FIFA Boss Infantino

File: FIFA president Gianni Infantino holds a press conference at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 13, 2018, two days before the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia. PHOTO: Jewel SAMAD / AFP

 

FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Friday said that “no match” is worth “risking a single human life” and that world football’s governing body would be able to help financially national federations during the coronavirus pandemic.

The majority of top football leagues and international competitions have been suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Infantino insisted that games would not resume until it was safe.

READ ALSO: Man Utd Must Be Ready For Return To ‘Normality’ – Solskjaer

“Our first priority, our principle, the one we will use for our competitions and encourage everyone to follow is that health comes first,” he said in a video message.

“I cannot stress this enough. No match, no competition, no league is worth risking a single human life.”

The German Bundesliga reportedly could restart behind closed doors in May, with players already back in training, while other leagues could also resume in the summer.

“It would be more than irresponsible to force competitions to resume if things are not 100% safe,” added Infantino.

“If we have to wait a little longer we must do so. It’s better to wait a little bit longer than to take any risks.”

Infantino said that national football associations which are struggling financially would receive help from FIFA’s emergency relief fund.

FIFA last week postponed all international matches scheduled for June.

“We are today in a very strong financial situation,” Infantino said.

“But our reserves are not FIFA’s money. It is football’s money. So when football is in need, we must think what we can do to help… It is our responsibility and our duty.”

COVID-19: FIFA Urges Players, Clubs To Reach Wage Agreement

FIFA President Gianni Infantino addresses the media during a press conference following the FIFA Council Meetings in Miami, Florida, on March 15, 2019. Infantino on Friday confirmed plans to launch an expanded 24-team Club World Cup in 2021 following a meeting in Miami. The new tournament, which has drawn threats of a boycott from leading European clubs, is to be staged in June-July 2021 instead of the Confederations Cup. RHONA WISE / AFP.
FILE PHOTO: FIFA President Gianni Infantino addresses the media during a press conference following the FIFA Council Meetings in Miami, Florida, on March 15, 2019.  RHONA WISE / AFP.

 

FIFA on Monday urged clubs and players to reach agreement on wage reductions to protect clubs suffering financial damage due to the coronavirus crisis, sources said.

The call from world football’s governing body comes as Premier League clubs are locked in talks with players and their representatives about taking pay cuts after government ministers called on players to “play their part”.

Italian top-flight football clubs on Monday agreed to cut the salaries of players, coaches and staff. Clubs in other countries, including Barcelona, have also cut player wages.

FIFA is also recommending that players’ contracts be extended until the end of the interrupted football seasons and that the transfer window does not open until that time.

The source said the health crisis had had “a major impact” on clubs’ revenues and that, like other sectors of the economy, football had to find “fair and equitable solutions” to protect jobs.

Therefore FIFA “strongly encourages clubs and players to work together” to find agreements on a range of issues, including salaries.

It is common practice for European player contracts to run until June 30.

Players whose contracts expire this summer include Manchester City’s David Silva, Willian at Chelsea, or Paris Saint-Germain’s Thiago Silva and Edinson Cavani. At the moment, they will be free to leave on July 1 even if the season has not been completed.

Given that the European seasons are suspended and there is no fixed date to resume at the current time, the source said FIFA proposes that contracts should be extended “until such time that the season does actually end”.

A statement FIFA has prepared and which has been seen by AFP said: “With the current suspension of play in most countries, it is now obvious that the current season will not end when people thought it would. Therefore, it is proposed that contracts be extended until such time that the season does actually end.”

“A similar principle applies for contracts scheduled to begin when the new season starts,” it said. “Meaning the entry into force of such contracts is delayed until the season actually does start.”

In Italy, where all football has been suspended since March 9, clubs in Serie A agreed on Monday that player salaries will be reduced by a third of their gross annual earnings if the season should be cancelled, and a sixth if it resumes.

‘Positive impact’

Individual agreements must still be signed between the clubs and players, who will waive between two and four months’ salary.

The decision was reached unanimously by Serie A clubs, with the exception of Juventus, which had already reached an agreement with its own players, said Lega Serie A.

Juventus said the salary cuts accepted by its players and coach Maurizio Sarri over the period from March to June would have “a positive impact of 90 million euros on the 2019/2020 financial year”.

In Spain, where Barcelona players, like their English counterparts, had been criticised for not agreeing a pay cut, six-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi announced last week that the squad had agreed to a 70 percent pay reduction as the club faces a loss of revenue.

“We clearly won’t manage to earn what we had been expecting to,” Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said.

Atletico Madrid’s players quickly followed in agreeing a similar pay cut.

In France, both the broadcasters who show Ligue 1 matches have refused to pay the latest instalments called for in their contracts. Several clubs, including Lyon and Marseille, have placed their squads on partial unemployment.

 

AFP

Super Eagles Retain Spot On FIFA Ranking

A file photo of Super Eagles of Nigeria during a training session.

 

 

The Super Eagles have retained their 31st position in the latest FIFA ranking.

According to the index released on Thursday by the football governing body, Nigeria are third in Africa behind the Teranga Lions of Senegal and Tunisia.

The West and North African countries are 20th and 27th respectively on the world stage.

Algeria and Morocco who also sit 35 and 43, trail the Eagles as fourth and fifth to complete Africa’s first five teams.

Meanwhile, Belgium maintained their position as the best globally while World Cup winners France and Brazil are second and third.

England are in the fourth position just as Uruguay sit fifth.

Nigeria will face Sierra Leone at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Delta State on March 23.

Both teams are meeting in a 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier match with the return leg to be played in Sierra Leone the following week.

$7.35bn Spent On Players Transfer In 2019, Says FIFA

FIFA Bans Ex-Zambian Football Chief Bwalya Over Bribery Allegations
File

 

Football clubs worldwide splashed out a record $7.35 billion (6.63 million euros) on transfers in the men’s game in 2019, FIFA revealed in a report released on Wednesday.

The amount represents a 5.8 per cent increase in 2018, with English clubs accounting for the largest total outlay at just over $1.5 billion — a drop of 22.1 per cent on previous figures.

However, 80 per cent of all spending on transfer fees came from 100 clubs combined, according to the global transfer market report.

Portuguese clubs achieved the highest net balance with $384 million while those in England produced the largest negative net balance of $549.9 million.

A total of 18,042 international transfers were made — another record. They involved 15,463 players of 178 different nationalities.

There was also a 16.3 per cent increase in spending on women’s football, with the total figure rising to $652,000 from $560,000. The number of transfers climbed from 696 to 833.

“It is remarkable to see a new record number of transfers in the men’s market,” said FIFA’s chief legal and compliance officer, Emilio Garcia Silvero.

“We observe as well, increasing all-round figures in the women’s market, which is a sign of the positive overall development of women’s football over the last year which we trust will continue in 2020.”

AFP

FIFA Files Court Claims To Retrieve $2m From Platini

Platini Wishes FIFA Ethics Panel Would 'Disappear'
FIFA ex-Vice Presidents Michel Platini/ AFP

 

FIFA on Monday said it had filed court claims in Switzerland to force Michel Platini to return two million Swiss francs ($2 million, 1.84 million euros) he received during Sepp Blatter’s reign at world football’s governing body.

FIFA banned Platini, its then vice president, in 2015 over the payment he received, sparking years of bitter recriminations from the Frenchman and a falling out with his former ally Blatter.

In a document seen by AFP last week, FIFA said it would take legal action by the end of the year “to recover the money illegally paid” by Blatter to Platini.

The organisation confirmed Monday it had launched such proceedings.

“This follows the unanimous resolution recently adopted by the FIFA Governance Committee in which it emphasised that FIFA was duty-bound to try to recover the funds illicitly paid by one former official to another,” FIFA said in a statement.

“Even the Swiss Federal Supreme Court has confirmed that this 2 million Swiss franc gift was to be viewed as an ‘undue payment’.”

It added: “If and when successfully recovered, these funds (together with interest) will be fully channelled back into football development, which is where the money should have gone in the first place.”

Blatter authorised the payment in 2011. The Swiss authorities started investigating in 2015 while FIFA’s ethics investigators branded the payment “disloyal” and banned Platini for six years.

The Frenchman subsequently appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which reduced his suspension to four years while ruling it “was unconvinced as to the legitimacy of the payment, which was only recognised by Mr. Platini and Mr. Blatter.”

AFP