Gianni Infantino is set to be waved in for a third four-year term as FIFA president when world football’s governing body holds its annual congress in the Rwandan capital Kigali tomorrow.
Delegates from the 211 member federations will have a limited choice at the 73rd FIFA Congress, between re-electing the 52-year-old incumbent by acclamation or symbolically disapproving.
Unexpectedly elected in February 2016 following the scandal that brought down Sepp Blatter, Infantino already stood unopposed for re-election in 2019 and is now poised to stay in charge of world football until at least 2027.
While the statutes of the Zurich-based organisation currently limit a president to a maximum of three four-year terms, Infantino has already prepared the ground to stay until 2031, declaring in December that his first three years at the helm did not count as a full term.
European opponents to Infantino were not able to put forward a candidate to stand against the president who has already overseen the expansion of the men’s World Cup from 32 teams to 48 in time for the 2026 edition in North America.
That is set to lead to a significant increase in the number of matches played, just as the upcoming Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand will feature 32 teams, up from 24 at the last edition.
Infantino has delivered on promises to make those tournaments bigger and is now eager to push through another of his pet projects, the expanded Club World Cup.
“The new competition will take place in 2025 and will feature 32 teams, making it really like a World Cup,” he said in Doha in December.
The last four years have seen FIFA undertake major reforms of the football transfer system, including introducing a licence for agents and a cap on agents’ commissions.
Infantino can also point to healthy financial results, with FIFA revenues increasing 18 percent in the last four-year cycle and reserves up 45 percent.
Those improved financial results allow FIFA to keep on increasing the amount of money it provides in subsidies to federations, in turn helping ensure many of them will continue to back Infantino.
And a 48-team World Cup will lead to even greater revenues, with FIFA announcing in December projected income of $11bn up to 2026, compared to $7.5bn in the cycle ending in 2022.
In order to make football “truly global”, as Infantino says, at a time when leading European clubs are able to hoard talent and wealth, FIFA distributes money evenly.
And so the likes of Trinidad and Tobago and Papua New Guinea receive the same amounts as Brazil, and each has one vote at the congress.
As long as the FIFA president keeps on his side the 35 Central American nations, including numerous Caribbean islands, or the 54 African federations, he need not worry about upsetting the powerful European nations.