AP Source: Infantino pay less than his No 2 in new-look FIFA

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Posted: Feb 27, 2016 9:44 AM
AP Source: Infantino pay less than his No 2 in new-look FIFA

ZURICH (AP) — After 17 years under the all-powerful Sepp Blatter, a sign of the FIFA president's newly-diminished powers will come when Gianni Infantino's salary is revealed.

The head of world soccer will no longer be the best-paid person in the governing body under reforms instigated to curb the president's powers after corruption scandals that threatened FIFA's existence.

Instead, Infantino's No. 2 — a chief executive in an overhauled FIFA structure — will now receive a bigger pay packet than the president, a person with knowledge of the situation said Saturday.

A three-man remuneration committee decided that neither Infantino nor his CEO should earn more than Blatter, who was reported to have earned around $6 million — a figure not denied by FIFA and which is likely to have fluctuated based on bonuses.

Infantino, the outgoing UEFA general secretary, plans to appoint a non-European CEO. As powers are separated across the executive, the Swiss-Italian will have no influence over commercial contracts so will not receive bonuses, the person said.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because FIFA salaries are not currently allowed to be discussed publicly. That is due to change next month when FIFA plans to reveal salaries for the first time in its annual financial report as part of reforms approved on Friday hours before Infantino's unexpected election win.

Blatter's final day on the FIFA payroll was on Friday, having joined in 1975 and spent 17 years as president until being found guilty in December of unethical financial conduct by the organization's ethics judge.

The presidency will return to the non-executive figurehead status long established before Blatter won election in 1998 and steadily asserted more control over FIFA. Under Joao Havelange, Blatter was in day-to-day control as secretary general.

"It is back to the school of Havelange when he was president, and the secretary — you do all the job," Blatter told The Associated Press on Saturday, when told of the new salary structure.

The 79-year-old Blatter's ban from soccer was reduced from eight to six years earlier this week.

In electing Infantino on Friday in a second round of voting, the FIFA Congress opted for another man from the Swiss canton of Valais as its leader.

But soccer nations are hoping that is where the similarity ends.

Infantino, almost 35 years Blatter's junior at 45, is seen as a cleaner new face of FIFA as it tries to protect its victim status in American criminal investigations into soccer bribery and racketeering.

Amid the reformist buzzwords drilled into the 209 soccer nations in several scripted speeches delivered by acting president Issa Hayatou at Friday's congress, the message that FIFA must become a "strong and responsible organization" was the loudest. The sign at the entrance featured the phrase "restoring trust."

As a member of the reform committee established after the first wave of arrests of FIFA executives last May, Infantino has been at the heart of shaping the governing body's new appearance.

But when the first meetings examined diminishing the president's authority, Michel Platini was envisaged as Blatter's successor, potentially with Infantino as his top administrator.

Infantino's role as Platini's sidekick ended when the former France captain was suspended from soccer in October over a 2011 payment from FIFA of 2 million Swiss francs ($2 million) which Blatter was then banned for sanctioning.

Canadian Soccer Association President Victor Montagliani, who crafted the reforms alongside Infantino, believes Infantino will still be able to influence the management of FIFA as it tries to regain its credibility.

"This whole thing about power and the presidential office, that's ancient," Montagliani told the AP. "I think leadership is not about power, it's about service. We are all servants of the game ... and I think there's a generational change in the game."

Reform committee chairman Francois Carrard, a former International Olympic Committee director general, acclaimed Infantino as the "most complete candidate" while cautioning that a new era should not be hastily declared.

"He's a man of action, he's a doer, not just a talker," Carrard said. "If there was another president ... he would have to go through a learning curve he doesn't need. He is an insider of the reforms."

FIFA would have endured a fraught start to the post-Blatter era had pre-election favorite Sheikh Salman emerged victorious.

Throughout the campaign, the Bahraini was unable to shake off questions about the 2011 anti-democracy protests in the Gulf nation. There have been repeated denials that he had any role in Bahraini soccer players being identified and arrested during the crackdown by the government led by his family, the island's Sunni rulers.

Despite the sheikh calling the accusations "nasty lies," England and Germany both said they could not vote for him due to concerns.

"Infantino starts with much more trust and expectation levels than any of the other candidates might have," Irish Football Association chief executive Patrick Nelson said.