FIFA has become infamous for the members’ lavish or “five-star” way of life.
But after Gianni Infantino was chosen president of the sport’s governing body in February, one of his first promises was to make FIFA more unassuming and more humble.
The early signs were indeed promising and the fact that he traveled to Britain for his first official engagement by a budget airline, rather than a private plane, like his predecessor preferred. Things definitely looked like they were changing for the better.
Things, however, haven’t remained the same and currently the Congress in Mexico City has looked as ridiculously extravagant as any held under Blatter.
The report in Reuters confirmed the same: FIFA confirmed that it paid all the expenses for each of its 209 member associations to bring a three-man delegation, flying business class and staying in five-star accommodation. Each delegate was also given $1,000 in spending money. FIFA sources told Reuters that efforts were being made to persuade delegates to leave their bubble but having them walk a few hundred yards took some effort.
While some were seen walking the 500 metres from their hotel to Thursday’s opening ceremony at the city’s 10,000-seat National Auditorium, considered one of the world’s best entertainment venues, others “insisted on taking a luxury bus”. FIFA sources told Reuters that they were trying for the delegates to “leave the bubble” but “having them walk a few hundred yards took some effort.”
Just the prior night, FIFA appeared as disengaged as ever when the “Legends” team of former footballers partook in a display match at Mexico City’s notable Azteca stadium. FIFA charged it as a “football fiesta” and said it was “engaging more with the football world and getting football back to the heart of FIFA”. Then why was it closed to the public?
Instead, it was only witnessed by specially invited guest who spent the vast majority of the night in a tent built onto the pitch, where they were spoiled with wine, champagne and canapes, while Mexican dancers performed on the stage.
While FIFA sources said the occasion had been hurriedly organised and they had not been aware to what had been planned, Infantino, who has pledged to cut expenses, was ambiguous when questioned on the matter.
He did say that it was something the governing body will look into.
“I think it’s always been the case that they are paid $1,000 as a fee for the delegates, it’s part of the budget approved by the finance committee,” he said.
“It’s good that it’s been raised and we might have a look at it.”
Positively though, the biggest headline in the world of sports today has been the appointment of Fatma Samoura as the new secretary general of FIFA. She is the first woman to hold the post, and her appointment has been heralded as a commitment to diversity on the part of FIFA as the Senegalese woman, with a long history of humanitarian work, became the first woman as well as the first African to hold the title.