Europe's biggest football clubs have given their support to Uefa chief Gianni Infantino's Fifa presidential campaign, the European Club Association (ECA) said in Paris, France on Tuesday (9 February). ECA vice-chairman Umberto Gandini announced the decision at a news conference during the general assembly of the organisation, which represents over 200 European clubs including major ones such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Bayern Munich.
Suspended Uefa President Michel Platini and outgoing president Sepp Blatter were banned from all football activity for eight years by Fifa's ethics committee in December 2015. Both were found guilty of breaking Fifa's code of conduct regarding a £1.3m ($2m) payment made to the Frenchman in 2011. Platini insists he will continue to appeal against his ban and will take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but in January confirmed that he had pulled out of the presidential race.
Infantino has already claimed he is the right man to run Fifa. Gandini said: "Obviously, we have known Gianni Infantino for many years. Gianni was on our side when we reached the agreement within the governing bodies to found the ECA and he's always been very instrumental for the development of the relationship between clubs and the association under the Uefa umbrellas, therefore we can say that we look with sympathy to his candidacy, that we wish him all the best in this electoral contention," he said.
The independent ECA, which replaced the G-14 group of leading clubs in 2008, has two representatives on the Uefa executive committee but has no direct role in the presidential voting which is conducted by Fifa's 209 members. Despite backing Infantino for his Fifa candidacy, the ECA voiced its strong opposition to the possible expansion of the World Cup from 32 to 40 teams – an idea that Infantino gave his support to in January 2016.
The other election candidates for the Fifa top job are Bahrain's Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, ex-Fifa executive committee member Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, former Fifa deputy general secretary Jerome Champagne and South African Tokyo Sexwale, a former political prisoner who was jailed alongside Nelson Mandela.