Fifa president finds himself mired in fresh controversy over alleged intervention in Uefa election.
A report by Dutch daily newspaper De Volkskrant claims Fifa president Gianni Infantino has violated the world football’s governing body’s code of ethics by trying to influence the election of the next Uefa president.
Last May, according to De Volkskrant, Infantino sent an ‘advisor’ to a meeting of the northern European football associations in Milan to tell them to vote for Aleksander Ceferin as the next Uefa president.
Fifa’s code of ethics states that employees shall ‘remain politically neutral’ in dealings with associations.
Infantino’s message was delivered by his Norwegian advisor Kjetil Siem, who earlier that month had been appointed by Infantino as a strategic director of Fifa. Some of the FA leaders attending the meeting were shocked by his message. Nevertheless, several days later, four of the associations – Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland – confirmed they would support Ceferin.
In a written statement, Fifa has denied any wrongdoing, arguing that Siem travelled not as an emissin his capacity as secretary-general of the Norwegian Football Association.
“Kjetil Siem was not sent on behalf of the FIFA President to Milan,” the statement read. “At the time of the meeting, he was still an employee of the Norwegian Football Association. With regard to the UEFA Presidential election, it is up to the members of UEFA to choose their new President. The FIFA President is not involved in these elections and does not support any particular candidate.”
Ceferin, the Dutch FA president Michael van Praag and Spanish Football president Spaniard Angel Villar are the three declared contenders for Uefa’s presidency. Candidates have until Wednesday to register an interest in standing for the vacancy created by the resignation of Michel Platini. The 55 European football associations will elect a new president at an extraordinary Uefa congress on 14 September in Athens.
Infantino’s involvement is a setback for van Praag who had regarded Infantino as an ally and backed him for the Fifa president. Van Praag told De Volkskrant, that he confronted the Swiss in his hotel room in Milan at the time of the Champions League final.
“He was angry that this story went around and said he could never afford something like this, being the president of FIFA,” said Van Praag.
Infantino has denied that he supports Ceferin.
This is not the first time Infantino has faced questions about his conduct since becoming president of Fifa. He has been accused of unlawfully appointing and firing employees, and also of abusing his personal expenses. As reported by World Soccer on Monday, an official investigation by the ethics committee could eventually lead to a suspension of the Fifa president.