Gianni Infantino has been re-elected as the president of Fifa at the governing body’s Congress in Paris today.
The Swiss will serve a full four-year term for the first time, having initially taken up the reins from his disgraced predecessor Sepp Blatter in 2016.
Earlier in the day, the Congress had voted to change Fifa rules to allow a lone candidate to be elected via acclamation, rather than by ballot, thus avoiding potential protest votes through abstentions. The vote to approve this change was opposed by just three of Fifa’s 211-member council.
His first full term will run until the Fifa Congress in 2023.
“Thanks to all those who love me, and all those who hate me,” said a bullish Infantino after the confirmation. “Today I love everyone.”
He added that he intended to use the next four years to create new tournaments and continue to build on record revenues seen in 2018.
He pledged to invest further in youth and especially women’s football, saying he plans to use the forthcoming Fifa Women’s World Cup – which begins here in Paris on Friday – as a springboard for future growth.
Confirmation that the 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar would remain as a 32-team tournament had come earlier in the morning, but Infantino pledged to deliver a 48-team event for the 2026 edition in the US, Canada and Mexico.
Infantino set the tone for his re-election earlier in the morning, arguing that “in three years and four months” since he replaced Blatter, Fifa had gone from “being toxic, almost criminal, to being what it should be: an organization that develops football, an organization that cares about football.”
His target will remain the commercial and financial growth of the organisation, and he will be judged on this measure more than any other. Following a successful World Cup in Russia last year, Fifa now sits on cash reserves of over $2bn, a development which has played no small part in his re-election, helping him deliver on promises to offer a four-fold increase in financial assistance to national federations.
Fifa will also launch the expanded Club World Cup under Infantino’s watch, a 24-team World Cup-style tournament that will begin in 2021, which is expected to deliver dramatically increased revenues over the current eight-team annual contest.
Questioned on the sources of funding for that tournament, with rumours suggesting that Japanese financial services firm SoftBank had put together a consortium to purchase the rights from Fifa for $25bn, Infantino replied: “In any normal business, if the chief executive or the chairman brings a new idea that can generate $25bn, he might not get a standing ovation, but people will say ‘let’s look into that, and if there’s something dodgy we won’t do it.’ But there is not something dodgy. I hope to make $50bn, not just $25bn. The sporting structure is in place, now we have to figure the commercial side.”