Newly-Announced FIFA Reforms Are A Mixed Bag

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When Gianni Infantino was elected president of FIFA earlier this year he was also given a mandate to reform an organization that was becoming synonymous with corruption and impropriety. We’re now starting to see the first sprouts of Infantino’s reform agenda, and the proposed changes have a lot of good points and a few… puzzling ones.

The first thing that jumps out in the vision for “FIFA 2.0” are its growth targets. Infantino wants to invest $4 billion over the next 10 years— with that funding being funneled through member FAs— as well as an increase in the sport’s “total participation rate,” the number of people playing and coaching and officiating and watching the game, from 45% worldwide to 60%. Which is ambitious! But maybe doable?

Some other notable items include:

Centralizing World Cup organizing and operations rather than leaving it up to host countries. This would take effect starting in 2022 (still set to be held in Qatar).

Reevaluating the World Cup bidding process (although no details or goals have been specified).

Investing in women’s football, including doubling the number of women who play the game to 60 million worldwide and committing up to $315 million over the next 10 years in investments in the women’s game.

A technology-focused capital investment fund for exploring changes and adaptations to the sport. (Goal-line technology would be a useful example of what the fund might cover.)

Taking a more active role in business operations in order to “better ensure optimal financial returns and customer satisfaction.” Which makes sense, if you squint and try to forget that FIFA is technically a not-for-profit organization.

A possible “Impact Investment Fund” to support infrastructure development in member countries. In other words, FIFA may start to more closely resemble a charitable- and service-oriented NGO along the lines of the Global Development Group and Doctors Without Borders.

A greater focus on social responsibility and human rights.

A decision on expanding the World Cup to 40 or 48 teams due as early as January.

FIFA’s secretary general Fatma Samoura said that the proposed reforms will bring together member FAs and stakeholders to make for a stronger and more sustainable organization.

”This is a living document, and we look forward to engaging with the member associations, the confederations, our commercial affiliates and other stakeholders as we continue our work to fulfil our mission. With the organisational improvements we have made and the reforms we are implementing, FIFA is a stronger institution today than it was a year ago – and it will be even stronger a year from now. This vision will further energise the FIFA administration as we plan for the future.”

The whole proposal is worth a look. Some of these proposals are unambiguously good things. Others have some question marks over them. It’s an open question how much politicking has been priced in to this agenda, and it’s entirely possible many of these proposals won’t survive the working group/committee process. But it’s definitely ambitious, and Infantino has, at the very least, shown he’s willing to talk the talk. (Something which could not necessarily be said about his predecessor.) Now it’s a question of whether Infantino and FIFA can deliver on these promises— and how transparent the process of crafting and implementing these policies will be.

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