FIFA said just days before the start of the Qatar 2022 World Cup that the 52-year-old Swiss-Italian lawyer was the only person in the presidential race when the deadline expired overnight, precisely four months before the March 16 election in Kigali, Rwanda.
Infantino is now set to stay on beyond the 2026 WC in the US
Gianni Infantino will have four more years in charge of football’s governing body after no candidate stood to challenge him. FIFA said just days before the start of the Qatar 2022 World Cup that the 52-year-old Swiss-Italian lawyer was the only person in the presidential race when the deadline expired overnight, precisely four months before the March 16 election in Kigali, Rwanda. Infantino won a five-candidate race in 2016 to replace Sepp Blatter and was re-elected unopposed in 2019. He is now set to stay on beyond the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Infantino’s upcoming re-election to the $3 million-a-year job may not be his last term. FIFA rules allow him to run again to stay in power for another World Cup cycle until 2031.
Infantino’s leadership is under investigation by two special prosecutors in Switzerland
A quirk in FIFA’s statutes means that the first three years of Infantino’s presidency, when he completed an unfinished term begun by Blatter, do not count against the 12-year limit agreed upon in reforms passed during a protracted corruption crisis before his first election. Outside of football, one political threat to Infantino’s leadership is an investigation by two special prosecutors in Switzerland into his three undocumented meetings with then-Attorney General Michael Lauber in 2016 and 2017 during U.S. and Swiss federal investigations into football officials. It currently needs to be determined how that case, which is being overseen by the Swiss parliament, is progressing or what jurisdiction it has over Infantino as a private citizen who could be charged with having sought advantage from a public official. He has denied everything.
The final tournament in Qatar starts on Sunday
During Infantino’s current tenure, which began in June 2019, FIFA drew on its $2 billion-plus reserves and oversaw emergency legal measures to help stabilize soccer during the COVID-19 pandemic. The global health crisis all but shut down World Cup qualifying games in 2020. The final tournament in Qatar starts on Sunday. Infantino failed to win approval for the most important idea of the current presidential term: doubling the number of men’s World Cups every two years in a planned overhaul of the calendar for national teams. That plan was blocked last year by the continental soccer bodies of Europe and South America, UEFA and CONMEBOL, who united in threatening to boycott a biennial World Cup.
Tensions persist between FIFA and the two traditionally powerful continents, although they refused to propose or support a challenger publicly. Candidates need commitments from five federations and to have been active in a formal soccer role for at least two of the past five years.