London - New Fifa president Gianni Infantino is facing damning accusations of personal greed, and killing the corruption-plagued governing body’s entire reform process, as one of his key aides dramatically has resigned in protest.
Just when he promised the world that he was the man to clean up Fifa, Infantino, three months into the job, came under fire for taking on even more power than his disgraced predecessor Sepp Blatter.
Infantino launched a surreptitious 11th-hour power grab at Fifa’s Congress in Mexico on Friday which, in one fell swoop, gave him unprecedented control of all the organisation’s independent supervisory bodies, including the ethics committee whose bans have brought down a string of corrupt powerbrokers.
Without any prior warning, Congress members approved a recommendation to allow Fifa’s new-look Council, effectively run by Infantino, to sack any members of judiciary bodies at any point within the next 12 months, robbing them of their independence.
Those in the firing line theoretically included ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, investigative chief Cornel Borbely and, most notably of all, audit and compliance chairman Domenico Scala – Fifa’s financial watchdog who drafted the first set of reforms and supervised integrity checks on suspect officials.
It has been learnt that Scala, who also ran Fifa’s compensation committee, was deliberately targeted for refusing to agree to Infantino’s inflated pay demands. Sources close to several federations say Infantino, whose contract is believed to remain unsigned, opposed the $2 million annual salary being offered to him since it was less than Blatter had earned. Infantino is understood to have sought revenge on Scala in front of the entire Fifa membership after what one official described as a classic night of the long knives.
At the weekend, after intense discussions, Scala resigned in protest at Infantino’s ambush tactics that blew a giant hole in his claim he was leading Fifa into a new era of credibility and transparency.
Scala said he and others had been “factually deprived of their independence and are in danger of becoming auxiliary agents of those whom they should actually supervise”. He added: “This undermines a central pillar of the good governance of Fifa and destroys a substantial achievement of the reforms. For this reason, I herewith declare my immediate resignation as President of the Audit and Compliance Committee of Fifa”.
Infantino and Scala are also said to have crossed swords over Infantino’s unilateral choice of Senegal’s Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura as his general secretary, without going through a proper democratic headhunting selection process.
Several Council members have told the Daily Mail they were presented with Samoura’s name as a fait accompli even though the United Nations official has no football experience.
In his resignation statement, Scala, who will be a hard act to follow, questioned whether Fifa would be able to move on under the leadership of Infantino, who was regarded as a safe pair of hands when he took over from Blatter in February.
In a statement, Fifa said they regretted Scala’s decision and argued he had “misinterpreted the purpose of the decision taken”.
It added: “Mr Scala has made unfounded claims which are baseless. Fifa is focused on reform and the path forward as evidenced by the appointment of a new Fifa Secretary General”.
Mark Pieth, the Swiss governance expert employed by Fifa to oversee reform, slammed Infantino’s dictatorial stance. “I’m astounded,” said Pieth. “This goes against the centrepiece of the reforms in terms of balance of power and is simply the next round of dictatorship in a failing organisation.”