Giovanni Vincenzo "Gianni" Infantino ([dʒoˈvanni vinˈtʃɛntso iɱfanˈtiːno]; born 23 March 1970) is a Swiss–Italian football administrator and the current president of FIFA. He was elected President of FIFA during the 2016 FIFA Extraordinary Congress on 26 February 2016. He was reelected as FIFA President on 5 June 2019. On 10 January 2020 he was elected a member of the International Olympic Committee.
Gianni Infantino was born on 23 March 1970 in Brig, Switzerland. He is a son of Italian immigrant parents from Calabria and Lombardy. He studied law at the University of Fribourg. He is fluent in Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and German. Infantino also speaks English well, albeit with a thick accent, and some Arabic too.
Infantino worked as the Secretary General of the International Center for Sports Studies (CIES) at the University of Neuchâtel.
Gianni Infantino started working with the UEFA in August 2000, and was appointed as the Director of UEFA's Legal Affairs and Club Licensing Division in January 2004. He became Deputy General Secretary of UEFA in 2007, and Secretary General of UEFA in October 2009. During his time there, UEFA introduced Financial Fair Play and improved commercial support to smaller national associations.
He oversaw the expansion of UEFA Euro 2016 to 24 teams and played a role in the conception of the UEFA Nations League and the UEFA Euro 2020, that will take place in 13 European nations.
In 2015, the Greek government decided to introduce a new sports law in response to the recent scandal and acts of violence and corruption mainly in Greek football. Gianni Infantino, as UEFA's general secretary, led the negotiations with the Greek government and supported the Hellenic Football Federation's warning to Greece that it faces suspension from international football for government interference.
Infantino was a member of FIFA's Reform Committee. On 26 October 2015, he received the backing of the UEFA Executive Committee to stand for the position of president in the 2016 FIFA Extraordinary Congress. On the same day, he confirmed his candidacy and submitted the required declarations of support. He promised to expand the FIFA World Cup to forty teams.
On 26 February 2016, he was elected FIFA President for a period of three years. Swiss man Infantino holds dual citizenship through his parents. With his election, he became the first Italian to hold the Presidency of FIFA.
In 2017, Infantino criticized the United States travel ban on several Muslim-majority nations. He said "When it comes to FIFA competitions, any team, including the supporters and officials of that team, who qualify for a World Cup need to have access to the country, otherwise there is no World Cup. That is obvious."
In Iran, after the 1979 Islamic revolution women had been banned from stadiums when men's teams are playing. Infantino repeatedly warned Iranian football federation and Islamic Republic of Iran authorities about Iranian women's rights. On 8 September 2019, Sahar Khodayari self-immolated after being arrested for trying to enter a stadium.
Our position is clear and firm. Women have to be allowed into football stadiums in Iran. Now is the moment to change things.
Following that incident, FIFA assured that Iranian women are able to attend stadiums starting from October 2019. On 10 October 2019, more than 3,500 women attended the Azadi Stadium for a World Cup qualifier against Cambodia.
Infantino was implicated in the FIFA corruption scandal in documents released in the 2016 Panama Papers. They show that UEFA undertook deals with indicted figures where previously they had denied any relationship. Infantino has stated he is "dismayed" at the reports and that he has never personally dealt with the parties involved.
FIFA ethics investigations
In July 2016, Infantino was suspected to have broken the FIFA code of ethics, and was interviewed by the investigatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee.
The investigation was focused on three areas: "several flights taken by Mr. Infantino during the first months of his presidency, human resources matters related to hiring processes in the president's office, and Mr. Infantino's refusal to sign the contract specifying his employment relationship with FIFA".
Even though a document was leaked which showed illegitimate spending of funds by FIFA the matter concerning expenses and governance was not investigated. The document revealed that Infantino had billed FIFA for personal expenses such as £8,795 for mattresses at his home, £6,829 for a stepper exercise machine, £1,086 for a tuxedo, £677 on flowers and £132 on personal laundry. In addition to that he billed the FIFA governing body for an external driver for his family and advisors while he was away.
When Infantino accepted special treatment by the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts Russia and Qatar, the question of a potential conflict of interest was raised. The hosts had organized private jets for Infantino and his staff related to visits in Russia and the Gulf state. The investigatory chamber was of the opinion that no violation had occurred. In addition to that, the chamber found that "human resources matters, as well as Mr. Infantino's conduct with regard to his contract with FIFA, if at all, constituted internal compliance issues rather than an ethical matter."
While the investigatory chamber discharged Infantino, this did not stop criticism. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, a former German football champion, criticized Infantino for not fulfilling his promises regarding transparency, democracy and governance. "So far this has not succeeded in my eyes," he complained.
Infantino is married to Lebanese Leena Al Ashqar; the couple have four children (Alessia, Sabrina, Shanïa Serena and Dhalia Nora). He is a fan of the Italian clubs Inter Milan and Reggina, as well as Northern Irish club Glentoran.