CARDIFF (Reuters) - New FIFA president Gianni Infantino sent a clear message that his leadership style would be very different from his predecessor Sepp Blatter when he flew to his first official overseas appointment by budget airline on Friday.
Infantino, elected to run soccer’s world governing body last Friday, flew from Geneva to Bristol by easyJet instead of taking a private plane, which was Blatter’s preference.
He then got stuck in traffic on the 44-mile (70.81 km) drive to the Welsh capital, Cardiff, where he is attending the annual meeting of the International Football Association Board (IFAB), soccer’s law-making body.
“It was the easiest and best option for me,” the 45-year-old told reporters at a news conference ahead of Saturday’s meeting. “We are normal people and we have to behave like normal people.”
FIFA’s image under Blatter took an endless hammering because of the scandals that dominated his 17-years as president, and Infantino stressed he would work tirelessly to rebuild FIFA’s image as a credible, responsible organization fit for purpose.
First class air travel, the grandest limousines and nights in the best hotels would all be consigned to the past as the new president implements cost-saving measures.
“Obviously, there will be occasions when I might need to take a private plane if I have to go to three countries in one day, but everyone in FIFA should be working to optimize the costs. We have to send the right signals.
“I don’t always have to go to a match wearing a suit and tie. I am going to see Swansea play Norwich tomorrow, I won’t wear a tie.”
Infantino said it was a huge coincidence that the first place he flew to since winning last week’s election was Bristol.
After he was born in Switzerland in 1970, Infantino needed a blood transfusion at five days old to survive and one of the two anonymous donors whose blood saved his life came from Bristol, the other was from Belgrade.
“I would love to meet them, I survived with English blood and 46 years later I am the FIFA president, it’s a personal story, but I am happy to share it,” he said.
IFAB, which meets once a year to consider revisions to the laws of the game, is expected to approve trials for video technology to start next season and also endorse the first major rewriting of the game’s law-book since the 1930s.
“I love the tradition of the IFAB, 130 years old, which protects the laws, but we cannot close our eyes to progress and we have to move forward. We have to acknowledge we are in 2016 and we have to be open to change,” he said.
Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by Ken Ferris