KIGALI (Reuters) – Gianni Infantino was re-elected as FIFA President during the 73rd Congress in Kigali on Thursday and pledged record revenue of $11 billion over the next four-year cycle as he called for more football to be played around the world.
Infantino was left unopposed, making his re-election as head of the Football Association a formality, although he is not universally popular with member associations amid controversies such as the treatment of migrant workers in the run-up to last year’s World Cup in Qatar and a failed plan to end the tournament all two years to play.
“It’s an incredible honor and privilege and a great responsibility,” Infantino said. “I promise to continue to serve FIFA and football around the world.
“For those who love me, and I know there are many, and for those who hate me… I love you all.”
Infantino confirmed that FIFA’s revenue had hit record levels in the last 2019-2022 cycle, but promised to boost it significantly again due to expanded men’s and women’s World Cup tournaments and the introduction of a 32-team Club World Cup.
“Revenues soared to a record $7.5 billion (through 2022) during a period hit by COVID-19. When I arrived FIFA’s reserves were around $1 billion, today it’s almost $4 billion,” Infantino said.
“We are promising new record revenue for the next cycle of $11 billion and the new Club World Cup is not included in that number so it could add a couple billion (more) to it.”
Infantino said FIFA would continue to review the transfer system to “improve transparency” and suggested the organization could discuss a salary cap.
“We need to improve our regulations and the FIFA Statutes. We will further develop our principles of good governance and look at the transfer system and maybe have a discussion to improve the transparency of transfer fees and salaries.
“It might be necessary to introduce a cap, we need to think about how to do that. We will look at this with everyone involved and see what we can do.”
Amid the financial success of his seven-year tenure, Infantino has also sparked controversy that has made him unpopular with some member associations.
He accused critics of host Qatar’s human rights record of hypocrisy and racism at the World Cup.
The tournament in the desert state sparked numerous political debates over the hosts’ handling of migrant workers, its approach to LGBT rights and FIFA’s threats to punish players for political statements.
This included the ban on the “One Love” anti-discrimination bracelet, which caused displeasure from several quarters.
FIFA has previously talked about setting up a legacy fund to support and compensate migrant workers who helped build the stadiums and other infrastructure for the World Cup, but no specific plans have been announced so far and Infantino mentioned it in his speech not.
He hinted that FIFA had cleaned up its behavior in terms of governance.
“Every single dollar that is invested in projects and clubs is subjected to an independent audit. Money just doesn’t get lost anymore.
“That’s why the institutions have regained their trust in FIFA. The United States Department of Justice has recovered more than $200 million stolen from corrupt officials. We put that back into football.”
Player protection groups have questioned FIFA’s decision to expand the men’s World Cup from 64 to 104 matches, but Infantino says more football needs to be played around the world.
“When I hear there’s too much football, yes maybe in some places but not everywhere. In fact, football is underplayed in most parts of the world.
“We need a lot more competitions, not fewer, we want football to develop worldwide.
“We are discussing organizing a Women’s Club World Cup and a FIFA World Series every two years in March, when the teams are free from qualifiers.”
Infantino was first elected in an extraordinary congress in 2016 after the resignation of his predecessor Sepp Blatter and retained his office three years later unopposed.
However, this is considered his second term, leaving him available for a third and final term in four years.
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