Mr Pieth, what do you think of FIFA President Gianni Infantino?
Just like his predecessor Sepp Blatter, Infantino has a great affection for money. Infantino copies Blatter, but seizes power even more brutally than Blatter. While Blatter acted like a patron, Infantino is an autocrat. That’s why he gets along so well with Putin, Trump and the Al Thanis, the ruling family in Qatar.
At least since he hugged Vladimir Putin during the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Infantino has been considered a friend of autocrats. Now he acts as an extension of the rulers of Qatar. Nevertheless, he will probably be confirmed in the office of FIFA President in March. What does that say about the state of FIFA?
FIFA is a bunch of wimps. It’s nice that Denmark is now saying that it will no longer support Infantino. However, it would be good and courageous if the European football association UEFA collectively rehearsed the uprising against Infantino’s re-election. The problem, however, is that UEFA, with its 55 national member associations, only makes up a good quarter of FIFA’s members.
Doesn’t the approval of Infantino within FIFA reflect conditions in a world in which rule-of-law democracies are not in the majority anyway?
Yes, FIFA is a reflection of the world. And according to Transparency International’s Corruption Index, more than half of countries are hyper-corrupt. In this respect, the question arises: does Europe want to continue to participate, or will UEFA withdraw from FIFA? That would work financially, since UEFA is in a good position. The sponsors are primarily interested in Europe.
But then there would be no more soccer World Cups in the future.
We would then have conditions like in professional boxing. There are several rival world associations. This is of course not optimal. A monopoly is inherent in the World Cup idea. But if the monopolist, in this case FIFA, works so badly, it would make sense to think about alternatives. The big associations from Germany, England, Spain, France and Italy would have to go ahead. With his crazy speech at the start of the World Cup in Qatar, Infantino showed that he’s somehow confused – and that’s the most harmless thing you can say about him. Other people spoke of a medical finding.
FIFA has banned teams from seven European federations from wearing the One Love captain’s armband as a sign of diversity and inclusion. How do you rate that?
At FIFA, everything is behind closed doors. If UEFA and all of its members had made it clear to Infantino beforehand that sanctions against wearers of this bandage would have consequences, including the possible withdrawal of the associations from FIFA, then he would certainly have tried to find an amicable solution. But it was relatively easy for him because he didn’t experience any resistance. The Europeans have caved in and FIFA is being celebrated as the winner. That worries me.
Public outrage is great. Nevertheless, Western sponsors such as Adidas, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Budweiser are sticking by the pole of FIFA and the World Cup in Qatar. How do you explain that?
The sponsors only give up when things get really hot. Only when fans started boycotting FIFA sponsors would FIFA react. But that is not to be seen at the moment.
In Germany, the retail chain Rewe prematurely ended its partnership with the DFB and criticized FIFA’s attitude as “scandalous”.
That is exemplary. It is a tragedy that other sponsors cannot bring themselves to say goodbye to FIFA just yet. Behind this is a tough calculation: Many millions have been paid to have your own logo appear again and again on screens around the world during the World Cup. You don’t want to just write off this investment. The benefit of advertising for one’s own business is still considered to be greater than the image damage resulting from the fact that the World Cup in Qatar stands in stark contrast to the self-postulated pursuit of diversity, social cohesion, gender equality and ecological sustainability.