Gianni Infantino hit back at his media critics on the day he was re-elected for a new four-year term as FIFA president at the organisation’s Congress in Rwanda.
The Swiss said some reports concerning his support base were “racist” and argued FIFA is singled out for negative press when it proposes new competitions.
Infantino had started his press conference on the eve of last year’s World Cup in Doha with an opening statement lasting more than an hour, and began a press conference in Kigali by telling reporters: “Unfortunately, because of a few of you, all of you have to listen to another monologue by Gianni Infantino.
“I hope it will be shorter than the Doha monologue. Why are some of you so mean? We work hard, we don’t steal, we don’t profit.”
Infantino was unopposed for FIFA’s top job in Kigali, and his re-election until 2027 was confirmed by acclamation, via a round of applause in the Congress hall.
“An overwhelming majority has the feeling that I’m doing a pretty good job, including in Europe,” he told reporters.
“When I read articles, the best I can read is ‘well, he has some support by some poor countries in some poor continents’, with the names of some countries.
“So besides being racist, these kinds of remarks, they are factually wrong. And I think a journalist has a duty to be impartial and correct because the readers believe what they read.”
He said that whenever FIFA proposed a competition it was portrayed in the media as “a money-making exercise”.
He drew a comparison with the Premier League and claimed it earned as much in one year as FIFA earned in four.
“The big part of 24 billion in four years goes to 20 clubs in England. Again, congratulations. Well done. I praise them,” he said.
“When FIFA does one quarter of that, seven billion (in a four-year cycle) this money doesn’t go to 20 English clubs or 20 German clubs or 20 Swiss clubs, this money goes to 211 countries all over the world.”
The Premier League is understood to have secured £10.5bn (12.7bn) in central broadcast and commercial revenue for the three-year cycle which began this season.
The English top flight is a member of the World Leagues Forum and European Leagues organisations which both released statements on Wednesday criticised FIFA for failing to consult it over plans for a new 32-team Club World Cup starting in 2025.
The WLF statement said it would consider “appropriate next steps” in response, amid concerns about the calendar impact of the new tournament on existing domestic leagues, and on the workload of players.
Infantino continued: “When we speak about new competitions, it is again: ‘Ah this is FIFA, they are always adding, adding, adding’. But what are we adding?
“We were the only organisation in the world who during COVID has suppressed a competition (an expanded Club World Cup in 2021 which was due to be played in China).
“Everyone else has played their own competitions until the end, in one way or another. We suppressed one because we’re in a very good, stable situation.
“But to come back to the Premier League example, in order to generate its seven billion a year, the Premier League clubs play 380 matches, right?
“When we add a new competition, a new Club World Cup this corresponds to 50 games, 60 games, it’s 10 games, 15 games a year. It’s one game per year for each club.”
Infantino was challenged over remarks in his opening address to Congress where he said he had drawn inspiration to continue his first campaign for the FIFA presidency in 2016 from a visit to Rwanda’s genocide memorial.
Asked whether he was making a direct comparison, Infantino replied: “I find it really incredible that you can interpret what I say as making an association with one of the most terrible, terrible tragedies that happened in humanity in this country with anything that happened in my life.
“I will never make a comparison between a tragedy and my life. What I want to say is that this country is so inspiring.
“It is so inspiring for so many people on what has been done that when we come with our little problems sometimes, you know, we should just be a bit more humble about things. That’s all I said.”
Published: 16/03/2023 by Radio NewsHub