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So, what do we think about Gianni Infantino?

We watched the FIFA Extraordinary Congress on Friday night our time. We saw the speeches. We watched the votes being cast in those odd little tents. We watched the glad handing. We sensed the deals. As Australians we had our own small role, as our own David Gallop from the FFA acted as a scrutineer, shuffling bits of green ballot paper like playing cards.

We were surprised by the results (only 4 votes for Prince Ali bin Al Hussein?..None for Champagne?.....). But, did we like what we saw, what we heard? Simple answer: Yes and No. Not really so simple.

First, the positives. The fact that FIFA has been forced to look into itself and to accept the verdict of the people on the disastrous impact of the Havelange-Blatter era has to be good. The solid vote in favour of the reform process is a favourable result.

The very reason for the meeting is the resignation of Sepp Blatter after he was elected with the usual insult to democratic process. His step down is a victory for the game.

The palpable tension in the room, the sense that no-one really knew the result was a real win for democracy at football central. Let's hope such a competitive vote will become the norm.

Also, most of the speeches carried varying degrees of contrition. All seemed aware that FIFA had done wrong and had to atone. All seemed prepared to put in the hard yards getting things right.

Finally, in Mr. Infantino as President, we may have the least worst outcome. The other candidates seemed further from a solution than the former UEFA boss and so, it seems, he may be the best of a not so great bunch.

But, for all the positives, the negatives may outweigh them all yet.

Firstly, those speeches. We offer two-word assessments of each below and it is fair to say that all missed the mark. None sought to step outside the box, to envisage a wholly new FIFA. All were prepared to argue for the protection of the organisation, as if the institution was somehow bigger than the game itself. A few sought to look ahead through the lens of the past, unwilling to cut away from the Blatter years and unable to unshackle themselves from FIFA's murky culture.

Secondly, in connection with above, all the candidates came from the system that spawned the Blatter outrages. All have fed at FIFA's teat without much of a concern for the consequences and with their own careers and self-aggrandisement at the forefront of their work.

The reform process looks good on paper. But that's largely because FIFA has set such a low bar on such matters that we are happy with even a cursory effort. As we have argued, this process still needs a lot of work to make it truly significant and influential in terms of FIFA's troubled context.

Mr Infantino has runs on the board at UEFA. Yet, this Swiss career sports administrator is very much a man of the Blatter system. As a protege of Michel Platini, we can assume that, to some extent, Infantino will closely link to the French master player's own presidential goals and aims, which were curtailed as he himself fell to corruption claims and was banned from running.

And, his pitch was to greed. He sought support from Confederation bosses and country member associations, promising more money and FIFA support. That sounds on the surface to be a good thing. But, given FIFA's graft riddled system that looks to mean more fund peddling, more white elephants, more self-interested spending and more politics.

Moreover, the President himself will have less power under the new governance structure, so his ability to knock heads together and to get some proper shape in the organisation is lessened. This actually makes it more difficult for an incoming president to really change that much anyway, assuming he wanted to. The devolution to country and regional heads is not necessarily a good thing.

The reform process and a new, more heavily scrutinised President - albeit a less powerful one - will struggle to break apart a system that ignores grassroots issues and has failed dismally in areas like gender equality and anti-corruption.

Like many, we will be contacting Mr Infantino and will be congratulating him on his election. We will be asking for him to listen more to groups like us and to those for whom we work, our stakeholders. Whether he does or not will be one of his true tests.

Time will tell.

The Speeches - Our Ratings
Prince Ali bin Al Hussein: Nervous, Stilted
Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa: Arrogant, Out of Touch
Jerome Champagne: Passionate, Old Guard
Gianni Infantino: Genial, Dependable
Tokyo Sexwale: Comic Relief, Resigned to Defeat






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