World Football

Gianni Infantino: Fifa president to continue in role amid criminal investigation

Gianni Infantino
Gianni Infantino was re-elected for a second term as Fifa president in June 2019

Fifa deputy secretary general Alasdair Bell says controversy around the head of world football is as an “Alice in Wonderland situation” and a “step backwards” in repairing Fifa’s name.

Last week, prosecutors in Switzerland launched legal proceedings against Fifa president Gianni Infantino in relation to an alleged secret meeting with Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber.

Both men have denied any wrongdoing.

Infantino has opted not to step down until the matter is dealt with.

“Most people would recognise if you go to meet the attorney general, you would be in pretty safe hands,” Bell told BBC Sport. “You wouldn’t think you are going to be accused of criminal wrongdoing for having met the attorney general.

“Yet this is the kind of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ situation we are in today.”

Bell said neither Infantino nor Fifa were aware of the source of the complaint that led to the charges being levelled.

However, he did accept it might have come from someone with an axe to grind against the 50-year-old Swiss, who took office in 2016, vowing to clean up an organisation badly tarnished by the allegations levelled against his predecessor Sepp Blatter, who is currently serving an eight-year ban from football.

“Yes, there might be some people who might be interested in that [bringing the Fifa president down],” said Bell. “We don’t know who made the complaints. Maybe those people would like to see Gianni Infantino fall.”

Lauber offered his resignation last week after a court said he covered up the meetings and lied to supervisors during an investigation by his office into corruption surrounding Fifa.

Special prosecutor Stefan Keller was appointed in June to review criminal complaints against the two men and others.

He found indications of criminal conduct related to their meetings, the authority overseeing the Office of the Attorney General said.

While Bell said he is “100% certain” no criminal charges will arise in this matter, he accepts the reputational damage to Fifa will be significant.

“Of course, this is bad for our reputation as an institution and the personal reputation of the president,” said Bell.

Bell believes ridding Fifa of the stigma of corruption “is not something that is going to happen overnight”, adding: “To turn the ship around and to establish trust and credibility takes time.

“We are definitely going in the right direction but it is a work in progress. Events like this, the announcement of a criminal investigation, even if it is without any merit whatsoever, is a step backwards.”

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