FIFA president Gianni Infantino has accused the man who drove reforms at football’s world governing body of “playground” behaviour and shot down accusations of personal greed.
In an interview with Swiss newspaper Le Matin, Infantino dismissed suggestions he was seeking more than two million Swiss francs (£1.4million) in salary, and claimed he had found himself at the heart of a “witch trial”.
Infantino’s first FIFA congress as the man in charge was tarnished last month when audit and compliance committee chairman Domenico Scala, a key figure in FIFA’s attempts to recover from last year’s scandals, stormed out of the meeting in Mexico City.
The Swiss-Italian businessman was furious at a late change Infantino made to the rulebook which gives his inner circle, the FIFA council, unprecedented control over the key committees to recruit and dismiss members.
Within 24 hours, Scala had resigned, becoming only the latest independent voice to leave FIFA in frustration in recent years.
“I would have found it a bit more elegant if he had informed me beforehand,” Infantino said in the newspaper interview.
“But obviously he was rather proud of his little piece of theatre.”
Infantino went on to label it “infantile behaviour that belongs in the playground” and said of the episode: ” It makes me part of a witch trial.”
Scala said in a May 14 resignation statement that the change in the council’s power “undermines a central pillar of the good governance of FIFA and it destroys a substantial achievement of the reforms”.
In response, Infantino said in Sunday’s interview that was “pure conjecture, malicious speculation” and added: “Ne ither the president of FIFA nor the members of the council influence or will influence the work of the independent commissions.
“The facts prove it and will prove it in the future too. Domenico Scala is also wrong in his analysis. He thinks that football is governed with the same management principles as a pharmaceutical company or a pesticides manufacturer.
“It’s a major error in his assessment because he underestimates the passion aspect in football, as well as its geopolitical dimension. But it’s true also that, for Mr Scala, the discovery of football has been sudden and recent. That’s why I forgive him his shortcomings and his efforts of judgement.”
Infantino explained the changes by saying it was prudent for FIFA to be able to change personnel on the independent commissions for the short term, due to the potential, in the current climate, for those involved to be summoned for investigations into their conduct.
“I add that it’s a temporary measure for one year,” Infantino added.
The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung recently detailed a number of leaked documents that appeared to show FIFA, and Infantino, in a negative light. It alleged that Infantino described the two million Swiss francs s alary offer as an “insult”.
Infantino queried how the information, stemming from a “confidential strategy meeting” could have reached the public domain, but added: ” I have a little idea.”
He said: “I reserve the right to file a complaint of theft of sensitive data. In any case, the facts have shown – and will again prove in the future – that all these theories are not proven.”
As successor to Sepp Blatter, the former FIFA president who is serving a six-year ban from football, Infantino cannot risk being painted in a similar light.
“My enemies want to make me look greedy, that’s stupid,” he said.
“At the risk of repeating myself, the contract is in the course of negotiation. Once it’s signed, I will show you with pleasure all the details and you can see that it will be less than the two million the press is alluding to.”
Scala was not immediately available for comment when Press Association Sport attempted to contact him.
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