Infantino may look outside Europe for FIFA right-hand man

Mon Feb 1, 2016 12:23pm EST
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By Mike Collett

LONDON (Reuters) - FIFA presidential candidate Gianni Infantino said on Monday he would not automatically choose a European to be his secretary general if he wins the election to lead world soccer this month, breaking a pattern dating back more than 100 years.

Infantino, who appears to have widespread backing in Europe and promised support from South and Central American countries, hinted he could appoint an African to run FIFA's day-to-day administration if he wins the election in Zurich on Feb. 26.

Speaking at London's Wembley Stadium, he gave no specific indication why he would seek to broaden FIFA's power base as he launched his action plan for his first three months in office, should he win the vote.

But with outgoing president Sepp Blatter banned from soccer, and secretary general Jerome Valcke sacked as part of the corruption allegations engulfing the sport, all eyes are on candidates' reform proposals to clean up soccer and keep big money sponsors on side.

The 45-year-old Swiss, currently general secretary of European body UEFA, does not want FIFA to be seen as being Euro-centric.

"What we want to do is open the doors of the FIFA administration to the most able people around the world," he said.

"I am convinced the general secretary of FIFA should not be an European. Why not an African?," he told reporters as he detailed the 11 key points he would focus on in office.

Since FIFA was founded in 1904, it has had 10 secretary generals -- the official who runs the day-to-day-operations -- and all of them have been European.   Continued...

UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino gestures during a news conference after an Executive Committee meeting at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, January 22, 2016.  REUTERS/Denis Balibouse