Infantino crosses to FIFA’s dark side
Gianni Infantino took time out from shuffling the deckchairs at FIFA to attend the Euro 2016 Final. Six months earlier he would have been expecting to have been running the show as general-secretary of UEFA. Then, of course, came the Blatter/ Platini debacle and the Swiss-Italian lawyer was parachuted into the maelstrom of world federation politics.
Not that anyone appeared to remember his role in preparing the ground for Euro 2016 as Infantino was not mentioned among all the votes of thanks handed out by the great and the good at UEFA. It was as if he had crossed to the dark side.
Certainly, Infantino has been busy, with appointments to his presidential office: new secretary-general Fatma Samoura and a new audit and compliance chairman in Slovene accountancy specialist Tomaz Vesel. More changes in personnel are promised as the internal restructuring into “administration” and “football” sections continues.
Samoura made her first high-profile intervention, since her arrival from a United Nations posting in Nigeria, at the festivities surrounding the ticket-price announcement ahead of the 2018 World Cup and 2017 Confederations Cup. Again, there will be a lowest-price Category Four for home fans, while the top-price ticket for the Final has now burst through the $1,000 ceiling.
Vitaly Mutko, the multitasking Russian Football Union president – who is also the world’s busiest sports minister, what with the Russian doping scandal – used the occasion to promise that crowd-control lessons had been learned from the Marseille mob violence.
Foreign fans coming to Russia for the 2018 World Cup, said Mutko, would find a land of safety, security and comfort.
BBC Radio football commentator Alan Green is one sceptic. He has already told his bosses that he has no intention of going to Russia, whether any of the home nations are there or not.