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5 Things to Know About New FIFA President Gianni Infantino

For the first time since 1998, world soccer governing body, FIFA, has a new president. Gianni Infantino, a 45-year-old Swiss national of Italian descent, won election. He has plenty of work ahead as he takes over an organization of extraordinary reach that has be wracked by scandal in recent years.

#1: Gianni Infantino is a major soccer insider.

Since 2009, Infantino has been the secretary general—essentially the chief executive—of UEFA, Europe’s soccer confederation. He has been with the organization for much of the past 15 years working on everything from licensing to major tournaments, such as Champions League and the Euro Cup.

#2: Fifa appears to be moving along the road to reform, though slowly.

Infantino’s election followed the approval of a series of reforms aimed at improving the organization’s governance and preventing another all-powerful ruler as president. Infantino will be limited to three, four-year terms—though 12 years is a long time—and the office will be more ambassadorial. A compliance officer will work closely with FIFA’s chief executive. Each confederation will have a female representative on FIFA’s ruling council.

#3: The 2018 World Cup will be in Russia and the 2022 World Cup is probably going to be in Qatar.

Russia is too close to move. Infantino did not make re-voting for 2022 part of his platform, despite the controversy surrounding the choice to hold the tournament in the Persian Gulf Emirate. Absent direct, concrete evidence that Qatar bought votes, the World Cup is going to be there in in November and December of 2022.

#4: The criminal investigations into FIFA won’t end soon.

Sources expect the investigations, led by U.S. attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Swiss attorney general, to produce more arrests later this year. However, law enforcement officials needed to see FIFA clean house and move toward reform to continue to treat the organization as a victim. FIFA’s U.S. legal and crisis management advisors—the law firm Quinn Emanuel and Teneo—are charged with overseeing cooperation with authorities.

#5: Infantino has to prove he is different from his predecessor.

Like ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter, Infantino is a Swiss national. Like Blatter, he is close with Michel Platini, the embattled leader of Europe’s soccer confederation who is appealing a six-year ban the sport for collecting two million Swiss francs from Blatter and FIFA without a written contract.

Regardless of whether Infantino can get out of the shadow cast by Blatter and Platini, the election solidifies Europe’s role as soccer’s power center. The major European leagues in England, Germany, France Italy and Spain maintain a direct line to the president’s office.

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