BERN (Reuters) – FIFA president Gianni Infantino accused the man who masterminded reforms of soccer’s global body of “playground” behavior and told Swiss newspapers that his salary, still to be confirmed, would be less than 2 million Swiss francs ($2.05 million).
Infantino, elected three months ago to haul FIFA out of the worst graft scandal in its history, said his “enemies” wanted to make him look greedy after a newspaper leak said he had been angered by a suggested package.
FIFA has been embroiled in crisis after several dozen soccer officials were indicted in the United States last year while its own ethics committee has banned several top figures, including former president Sepp Blatter.
Infantino promised a fresh start but ran into problems of his own when last month’s Congress gave the FIFA Council power to appoint or dismiss members of independent bodies such as the ethics committee and the audit and compliance committee.
Domenico Scala, who as head of the audit and compliance had led the reforms of FIFA, quit his post hours later, saying the committees were no longer independent of the Council and that reforms had been undermined.
The Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung last month said that leaked details of FIFA Council meetings showed that Infantino had been angered when the compensation committee, which Scala also sat on, offered him a salary of $2 million Swiss francs a year.
“My contract is being negotiated and this is not the place to unveil the outlines,” Infantino said in the interview, published in French-speaking Le Matin and German-speaking Sonntagszeitung.
“However, once signed, I will show you with pleasure all the details and you will see that it will be less than the 2 million that the media has mentioned.”
“My enemies want to make me look greedy,” he added. “I have not stolen anything. And everything that I have earned in my life has been thanks to me work. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth.”
Infantino said he had only learned of Scala’s resignation after returning from a FIFA Congress in Mexico, even though the two were on the same flight.
He described some of Scala’s comments in the media as a “piece of theatre”, adding: “This is childish behavior worthy of the playground. I do not want to pay more attention to it.”
He rejected the suggestion that the FIFA Council could now influence ethics committee investigations.
“The facts prove it and will do so in the future,” he said. “Domenico Scala is mistaken in his analysis.
“He thinks that football can be managed with the same principles as a pharmaceutical company or pesticides’ manufacturer. This is a major error of assessment, because it underestimates the passion of football as well as its geopolitical dimension.”
Scala could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday.
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Bern; additional reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Alison Williams)