Niersbach ban is test for Infantino
Wolfgang Niersbach’s ongoing membership of the governing councils of FIFA and UEFA offers an early test of whether Gianni Infantino was serious in his protestations over the controversial rule change rushed through the Mexico City congress in May.
On that occasion, congress voted for a clause which ripped the technical rug of independence from beneath the judicial committees – including the ethics chamber – as a means of provoking the resignation of Domenico Scala as audit and compliance chairman.
Scala and Infantino fell out over a number of issues, notably what Infantino termed an “insulting” pay offer and the methodology used to appoint Fatma Samoura as secretary-general.
Infantino justified the regulatory change as permitting the instant replacement of any judicial committee members who had fallen foul of the law. Certainly there was a need for such a power but it should have been vested within the ethics committee and not directly in the patronage of the president himself. This was why the appointment of Tomasz Vesel as Scala’s successor was not greeted with wholehearted applause.
Niersbach, former president of the German DFB, was barred from football for a year by the ethics committee for trying to hush up the controversy over unexplained monies flying in and out of the 2006 World Cup bid and then organising committees.
Yet, in continuing to protest his innocence, he may carry on as if nothing had happened while following a long, drawn-out appeals path. By all good sense, he should be stood down from featuring in the decision-making process while his appeals are considered, for the sake of transparency and credibility.
Infantino has the power to make it happen. He made sure of that himself in Mexico City.