Factbox: FIFA presidential candidate Gianni Infantino
LONDON (Reuters) - Factbox on Switzerland's Gianni Infantino, one of five candidates standing for the FIFA presidency in an election on Feb. 26:
- Born in Brig, Switzerland on March 23, 1970.
- Studied law at the University of Friburg in Switzerland. Speaks Italian, English, French, German and Spanish.
- Before joining UEFA, he worked as an advisor to football bodies in Spain, Italy and Switzerland, then as Secretary General of the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) at the University of Neuchatel.
- He joined European soccer's governing body UEFA in 2000. In 2004, he was appointed director of UEFA's Legal Affairs and Club Licensing Division. One of his tasks was to foster close contacts with the European Union, the Council of Europe and governmental authorities.
- Infantino became UEFA's general secretary in October 2009, and right-hand man to president Michel Platini who in December was banned for eight years by FIFA's ethics committee.
- His main task since then has been to implement UEFA's Financial Fair Play policy, a break-even rule aimed at ensuring that clubs do not spend more than their generated revenue. It was initially intended to stop rich owners pumping unlimited amounts of cash into the clubs.
- UEFA has said that the policy has been successful in reducing losses by professional clubs across Europe. Critics have said that it prevents smaller clubs from growing and cements a status quo in which the same teams dominate the Champions League and European domestic leagues.
- Infantino has also overseen an increase from 16 to 24 teams in the European championship, starting with Euro 2016 in France. Another innovation has been the League of Nations competition for national teams which critics says is bafflingly complex.
- During Infantino's seven years as general secretary, revenue from Europe's club competitions has grown but so has inequality between elite clubs and the rest.
- Once-proud clubs from other European leagues, such as Ajax Amsterdam from the Netherlands and Benfica and Porto from Portugal, now act as feeders for clubs from the big four leagues, developing young players and then selling them on.
- Domestic leagues suffer because the windfall from playing in the Champions League makes top teams harder to unseat. FC Basel have won Switzerland's league title six times in succession; Maribor have won five straight Slovenian titles and Dinamo Zagreb clinched Croatia's for the 10th year in a row.
- Infantino's slick, corporate persona marks him out from the other candidates. He would be the first senior UEFA official to take high office at FIFA since the European governing body was founded in 1954.
- Key points of Infantino's FIFA election manifesto:
- The most controversial proposal is to increase the 32-team World Cup to 40 teams. Infantino said he would also encourage the idea of co-hosting World Cup tournaments between two or more countries in the same region.
- Infantino says he wants to distribute $5 million every four years to each of FIFA's 209 member associations for football development and a further $40 million to each of the continental confederations.
- William Hill odds to win presidency: 6/4
- William Hill odds for the other candidates: 8/15 Sheikh Salman; 8/1 Prince Ali; 66/1 Jerome Champagne; 66/1 Tokyo Sexwale.
(Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)