Gianni Infantino was re-elected as FIFA president until 2027 after running unopposed at the governing body of world football’s summit on Thursday.
The 52-year-old Swiss lawyer, who succeeded the disgraced Sepp Blatter in 2016, was re-elected for a third term by delegates from the 211 member federations, just as he was four years ago.
“To all those who adore me, and I know there are many, and to those who despise me, and I know there are a few: I love you all,” Infantino told delegates in Rwanda’s capital, where the voting mechanism failed to count the number of dissenting voices.
While FIFA laws now limit a president to three four-year terms, Infantino has already laid the groundwork for a stay until 2031, saying in December that his first three years in office did not count as a full term.
Infantino, who vehemently supported Qatar’s World Cup hosting last year as the Gulf state’s treatment of migrant workers, women, and the LGBTQ community came under scrutiny, has presided over the expansion of the men’s and women’s World Cups as well as massive increases in FIFA revenue.
Lise Klaveness, president of the Norwegian Football Federation, has stated that she will not support Infantino and has proposed that the congress debate “FIFA’s responsibility to remedy human rights breaches” in respect to the Qatar World Cup and future tournaments.
But, Infantino’s opponents, who were mostly based in Europe, were unable to field a candidate to challenge the guy who was previously Michel Platini’s number two at UEFA.
World Cup will be expanded.
“There is a lot to be looking forward to,” Infantino said as he shifted thoughts to the next four years and vowed the 2026 World Cup, the first edition to be increased to 48 teams, will be “the most inclusive World Cup ever”.
FIFA stated on Tuesday that the tournament in North America will feature 104 matches, a significant increase over the previous World Cup’s 64, and will begin with 12 groups of four countries.
The forthcoming women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand later this year will feature 32 teams for the first time, up from 24 teams in the last edition in 2019.
Infantino also intends to launch a new, expanded Club World Cup, which will be held every four years beginning in 2025 and will feature 32 teams.
“We need more competitions, not less,” he told delegates at the 73rd FIFA Congress.
Infantino has also stated that he expects to earn $11 billion in the four years leading up to 2026, up from $7.5 billion in the previous four-year cycle ending in 2022.
However, he stated that this figure does not include cash earned by the Club World Cup, implying that the total amount of money generated will be significantly higher.
These increased financial performance enable FIFA to continue raising the amount of money it provides in federation subsidies, ensuring that many of them will continue to support Infantino.
FIFA distributes money fairly in order to make football “truly global,” as Infantino puts it, at a time when big European teams can stockpile talent and cash.
As a result, countries such as Trinidad & Tobago and Papua New Guinea receive the same amount as Brazil and each has one vote in Congress.
The FIFA president does not need to worry about upsetting the big European nations as long as he retains the 35 Central American states, including numerous Caribbean islands, or the 54 African federations on his side.
That is why Infantino was not deterred by failed ideas for a biannual World Cup or the decision to prohibit rainbow-themed “One Love” armbands promoting LGBTQ rights during the World Cup in Qatar.
Nevertheless, football’s fractures show little signs of healing as long as Infantino’s growth aspirations persist.
The World Leagues Forum, which represents 44 leagues throughout the world, has complained that FIFA did not engage with them before unveiling plans for the new Club World Cup, which will be crammed into a “already overloaded” calendar.