Infantino accused of ‘bad governance’ at Fifa
Former committee member tells MPs that president chose ‘political survival’ over reform
The Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, and secretary general, Fatma Samoura, were accused of “violating the norms and standards of good conduct” by a governance committee member who resigned, alleging they had improperly interfered with a decision.
Navi Pillay, a renowned International Criminal Court judge and former UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, accused Infantino and Samoura of “undue influence” in her letter of resignation from the governance committee after its chairman Miguel Maduro was replaced without notice in May. Maduro told the House of Commons select committee for culture, media and sport on Wednesday that Infantino and Samoura had interfered and pressured him to change a decision to bar the Russian deputy prime minister, Vitaly Mutko, from standing for the Fifa council.
Maduro said Samoura argued the World Cup next year in Russia would be “a disaster” if Mutko were excluded and that as a consequence Infantino “feared for his presidency”. Maduro and the committee maintained their decision that Fifa’s rules requiring political neutrality did not allow a serving minister to be on the council. He said in parliament that Infantino had chosen “political survival” as the Fifa president, instead of properly maintaining the organisation’s independent reform structures following a deluge of corruption scandals.
In her resignation letter to Samoura, published by the parliamentary select committee yesterday, Pillay wrote: “I wish to draw your attention to the prohibition, in the rules, of improper interference, exercise of influence or pressure, and the need to disclose these approaches, if we had been subjected to them, rather than maintaining secrecy.
“In compliance with this regulation, the facts of undue influence exerted on the Chair to change a recommendation made by the [governance committee], were made known to me.”
Written on 17 May, a week after the Fifa council summarily ended the tenures of Maduro and the ethics committee chairmen Cornel Borbely and Hans-Joachim Eckert, Pillay continued in her letter: “As a judge and former UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, I adhere to principled conduct at all times; and cannot countenance serving in an institution, whose officials violate the norms and standards of good conduct, that they themselves adopted.”
Her strident criticism supported that of Maduro, who argues that Fifa has a “deeply embedded” culture, derived from self-interest and lack of governance, which makes it resistant to independent scrutiny, transparency and accountability.
Pillay concluded that she lacked confidence in the future governance at Fifa, stating: “I remain concerned that the [governance committee]’s independent functioning will not be respected.”
In a telephone conversation from her home in Durban, Pillay told the Guardian: “You cannot just have reform as rhetoric and carry on with the old ways. That is where the rots sets in, when you violate the rules yourself.”
Another of three governance committee members who resigned, the New York University law professor Joseph Weiler, has complained to Fifa’s ethics committee, alleging improper influence by Infantino and Samoura.
The English Football Association’s representative on the Fifa council, David Gill, approved the replacements of Maduro, Eckert and Borbely at the Fifa congress in Bahrain. He and the FA declined to comment following Maduro’s evidence in London.
Fifa responded to Maduro’s accusations by saying it was “normal” for officials to be in regular contact with him.
But Maduro said Fifa did not contest that the exchanges with Samoura and Infantino had taken place, saying: “The fact that they don’t see anything wrong with what I portrayed is the strongest confirmation of how deeply embedded is the culture I described. Genuine reform will only come about from the outside.” Everton produced another hugely disappointing display as they were soundly beaten for the third successive game, this time Atalanta inflicting the damage in their Europa League Group E opener in Reggio Emilia.
Ronald Koeman’s misfiring team went into the match having endured a 2-0 defeat at Chelsea and lost 3-0 at home against Tottenham Hotspur. Koeman, the Everton manager, had warned they would “need to react” in Italy after that last performance.
They were abject once again here, however, with their sloppiness punished by a dynamic Atalanta side who scored three times in the first half through Andrea Masiello, the captain Alejandro Gómez and Bryan Cristante.
While failing to mount anything really resembling a fightback after the break, Koeman’s men at least managed to avoid conceding any further goals, although Remo Freuler’s shot did connect with their crossbar.
Opening salvo Andrea Masiello beats Maarten Stekelenburg to break the deadlock after 27 minutes against Everton in Reggio Emilia
Infantino and David Trezeguet at a World Cup ceremony in Moscow