Zurich | Europe’s Gianni Infantino has won the presidency of FIFA with a convincing win over Asian rival Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, and vowed to lead the scandal-tainted body into a new era. The 45-year-old Swiss-Italian general secretary of UEFA got 115 votes in the second round of the election held at the FIFA Congress Friday, while the Asian Football Confederation president got 88.
Infantino takes over the 209-member, multi-billion dollar body from Sepp Blatter with world football’s image at an all-time low. Blatter has been banned from football for six years. U.S. and Swiss authorities have launched major corruption investigations into FIFA and other football federations.
Infantino said that despite the scandals of the past year football deserves to be highly respected. And we will restore the image of FIFA and the respect of FIFA and everyone in the world will applaud us, a visibly surprised Infantino told the Congress. Sheikh Salman, a member of the Bahrain royal family, was one of the first to congratulate his rival. Having got 27 votes in the first round, Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al Hussein got just four in the second. Former FIFA official Jerome Champagne had seven votes in the first round but zero in the deciding ballot. South African tycoon Tokyo Sexwale withdrew from the contest before the first round. The Congress was given tough warnings before the vote that the result and a series of agreed reforms had to convince a world shocked by several years of corruption scandals and doubts about World Cup bidding. International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said football and all sports had to improve governance.
Earlier, a reform package was adopted by 179 members, while 22 voted against and six abstained. The measures are designed to limit the authority of the new president and his deputies and end the patronage and waste that prevailed during Blatter’s 18-year term. The president’s job has been altered to function like a corporate chairman of the board, providing strategic guidance but with less management authority. FIFA’s executive committee, which had become an epicenter of graft allegations, has been re-branded as a FIFA council. It will operate like a corporate board of directors.
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