New Fifa president Gianni Infantino has been warned world football's governing body faces years of rebuilding its reputation, despite Sepp Blatter's reign at the summit of the global game coming to an end. The former Uefa general secretary – who beat four other candidates to become the new head of the sport – is charged with rebuilding the status of the governing body, which has hit rock bottom in recent years.
Despite Infantino's pledge to implement new reforms that were passed by Fifa's members in Zurich, a host of former executives including Jack Warner and Jeffrey Webb face upcoming hearings for charges relating to the awarding of previous World Cup tournaments and broadcast contracts. Those trials could yet extend Fifa's era of shame and implicate further individuals, while Infantino is attempting to instigate change.
The depth of the allegations means the investigations could last a significant period of time. Infantino has recently begun a three-year term but Damian Collins MP, co-founder of New Fifa Now, warns it could take the Swiss a second term to make an impact on an administration riddled with allegations of fraudulent behaviour.
"The investigations could go on for years; we're talking five or six years of constant evidence and information coming out," said Collins, after addressing the Sports Industry Breakfast Club. "I think it is very, very difficult [to restore Fifa's reputation] because the investigations are going to run so deep. If it shows that knowledge of corruption ran much deeper, you're then saying there was a culture within Fifa headquarters to blame. It wasn't just rogue individuals, it was people inside Fifa. You have to be bold to rebuild confidence."
Infantino, who is yet to disclose his presidential salary as promised, prevailed in a campaign that was largely played out in the shadows. Few of the candidates published manifestos, engaged in public debates outlining their policies or confronted allegations regarding their past. Collins believes the manner in which the process was conducted may yet be reflected in the term to come.
"The process does not fill you with confidence that it is going to lead to a new organisation," the MP for Folkestone and Hythe added. "Infantino may have to take difficult decisions over whether those people at an executive level should continue in their roles and whether there needs to be a broader clear out of personnel in Zurich. The ongoing investigations may well demonstrate that corruption in the organisation may go deeper than originally thought."
Among those to congratulate the victorious Infantino after he defeated Sheikh Salman in the second round of voting was the disgraced Blatter, who has been banned from all football activities for six years following an appeal. Collins believes those within Fifa are "deluded" if they believe Blatter has a future with the body beyond his ban, amid potential charges from investigators.
Among Infantino's first acts as president is set to be the starting of the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup, despite investigations being held into the awarding of the Germany 2006, Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 tournaments. "He could allow a little bit longer of a delay before getting in the bidding process," Collins stated. "It was one of the areas where corruption was rife and it was a corrupted process. The fact that half the members who voted for Russia and Qatar have been convicted or indited for corruption shows the scale of the problem."