Big European clubs support Infantino for FIFA presidency

by Julien Pretot

9 February 2016 | 17:11

Source: by reuters

  • by Julien Pretot
  • Source: reuters
  • Last update: 9 February 2016 | 17:11

ECA Vice Chairman Umberto Gandini, of Italy, attends a news conference after the 16th ECA (European Club Association) general assembly, in Paris, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

PARIS: Europe's biggest soccer clubs have backed UEFA interim chief Gianni Infantino's FIFA presidential campaign having worked closely with the Swiss through their umbrella European Club Association (ECA) group.

ECA vice-chairman Umberto Gandini announced the decision on Tuesday at a news conference during the general assembly of the organisation, which represents over 200 clubs including major ones such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Bayern Munich.

"We know Gianni very well. He has been instrumental in the creation of the relationship between UEFA and the ECA," Gandini said. "We see his candidacy as a nice opportunity for him which hopefully will benefit football worldwide.

"He has the skills to perform very well," he added ahead of this month's vote at the scandal-plagued world governing body.

The independent ECA, which replaced the G-14 group of leading clubs in 2008, has two representatives on the UEFA executive committee but has no direct role in the presidential voting which is conducted by FIFA's 209 members.

The other election candidates are Bahrain's Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, ex-FIFA executive committee member Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, former FIFA deputy general secretary Jerome Champagne and South African Tokyo Sexwale, a former political prisoner who was jailed alongside Nelson Mandela.

UEFA's Infantino and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) chief Salman are front-runners to win the Feb. 26 vote at FIFA, which has been embroiled in a huge corruption scandal with 41 people and entities indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Salman has the backing of his own AFC and the Confederation of African Football (CAF), while 45-year-old Infantino, UEFA's general secretary, has the support of his European organisation along with the 10-member South American confederation CONMEBOL.

The ECA also voiced its strong opposition to the possible expansion of the World Cup from 32 to 40 teams - an idea supported by Infantino.

"This is in the hands of FIFA and it will be in the hands of the new FIFA structure after the election," said Gandini.

"We will expect to be at the table to discuss all the possible reforms and we will bring our contribution and our evaluation, which can only be negative today.

"We are not there yet (at the point where changes to the World Cup format would be made) but we are not now in a situation of supporting such an idea," he added.

The ECA promotes its members interests on European club matters and aims to maintain a high level of involvement in the decision-making of the game's governing bodies.

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