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Fifa president Infantino cancels global press conference

With "transparency" the key buzzword around the halls of Fifa the challenge for the new Council and leaders is to convince everyone else as scepticism remains.
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FIFA President Gianni Infantino gestures during the Colombia 2016 FIFA Futsal World Cup third place match between Iran and Portugal at the Coliseo El Pueblo stadium, in Cali, Colombia on October 1, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS ROBAYO

Transparency vs comfort

Despite speaking on Thursday about removing controversy - with specific reference to the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup - and increased transparency, Fifa president Gianni Infantino and his communications team have done away with the globally streamed structured press conference instead opting for what seems like a cosier "media briefing" for journalists in Zurich which can be watched online.

According to Andrew Warshaw writing for Inside World Football last month this "runs the risk of turning into a free-for-all with little continuity, no translation and reporters jostling for position".

Important topics on the table

Next week sees the new 36-member ruling Council come together for their first meeting and the more structured press conference would have helped with the goals being spoken about to be more open with so many hot topics to discuss. As well as the future World Cup bidding, the agenda also includes, among other topics, the proposed increase in teams participating, Russia 2018 regulations and the decision to abandon Fifa's anti-discrimination Task Force which many have struggled to fully understand. The full agenda is posted on the Fifa website. 

Actions more important than words

FIFA president Gianni Infantino vowed Thursday that the 2026 World Cup bidding process will be free of the controversy that surrounded the selection of Russia as 2018 hosts and Qatar in 2022. Infantino was responding to a recent claim by US President Barack Obama that decisions on who hosts the Olympics and World Cups are corrupt.

"I can't speak about the past. But what I can promise, is that we need to look very seriously at the application process for 2026 (World Cup) to assure ourselves that the process is transparent and beyond reproach," Infantino told AFP in an interview.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has a lot to ponder as he envisions a new future for football's governing body.
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FIFA president Gianni Infantino has a lot to ponder as he envisions a new future for football's governing body.FABRICE COFFRINIAFP

In the wake of corruption scandals involving FIFA since May 2015, there had been calls for re-votes or overall cancellations of the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 in Qatar. Infantino said that for 2026 they would have to make sure "that the technical report means something concrete and that it is not only a political vote".

"It's our job to do this, to ensure that the process will be open and transparent, that those who must take responsibility take it and ensure that decisions taken from now or since February 26 (2016) are definitely not faked."

POTUS on IOC and Fifa corruption

Recalling how Chicago lost the bid to host the 2016 Olympics, Obama said in an interview: "I think we've learned that IOC's decisions are similar to FIFA's decisions: a little bit cooked."

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke about the corruption in both the Olympic and football governing bodies.
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U.S. President Barack Obama spoke about the corruption in both the Olympic and football governing bodies.JONATHAN ERNSTREUTERS

Infantino, 46, who was the right-hand man of suspended Michel Platini in his UEFA career, succeeded the disgraced Sepp Blatter at the head of FIFA, and is determined to stamp his own authority on the job as president and on the sport's future.

Infantino on improved future

"I was elected on a programme of reforms, I have a lot of belief in these reforms and their implementation" he added, hailing the measures taken in the context of "good governance and transparency in financial movements".

He added: "FIFA needs to do more football and less politics. There is obviously still work to do but I am quite happy and confident about the future."

The concern from many is that these are similar words to those that have been stated in previous regimes and the scepticism remains.


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