FIFA audit chairman Scala quits in protest at Infantino
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FIFA audit and compliance chairman Domenico Scala has resigned in protest against a power grab by President Gianni Infantino over control of independent panels that monitor the scandal-hit soccer body.
FIFA immediately responded to the news by issuing a statement saying that Scala had misunderstood the changes and accused him of spreading false information.
“FIFA regrets that Mr Scala has misinterpreted the purpose of the decision taken by the FIFA Congress,” it said. “Mr Scala has made unfounded claims which are baseless.”
Scala’s walkout on Saturday comes amid claims of tension between the two men over Infantino’s salary.
It marks the first major challenge to the integrity of Infantino’s presidency since he was elected to succeed Sepp Blatter in February.
Scala, who has monitored FIFA’s billion-dollar annual spending since 2012, described his resignation is a “wake-up call” for people working to reform FIFA.
Tensions between the two men were exposed on Friday at FIFA’s annual congress in Mexico City. Member federations voted in new powers to Infantino’s ruling council to fire Scala and ethics committee leaders who investigate corruption claims.
Those independent officials have been seen as a key check on FIFA since their appointments were the main achievements of a Blatter-led round of anti-corruption reforms in 2012.
“I am consternated about this decision,” Scala said in a resignation statement, citing Friday’s move, “because it undermines a central pillar of the good governance of FIFA, and it destroys a substantial achievement of the reforms.”
Infantino on the defence
In a speech on Friday, Infantino declared FIFA’s corruption-fuelled crisis to be over.
Infantino later defended his new powers to remove key people overseeing his work when he was questioned at a news conference.
“Those that are making the comments have not really understood what we are doing,” Infantino said in Mexico City, adding his council would have the powers for only one year.
“The judgments need to be made by the quality of the members which are sitting on these boards rather than by making speculations or putting intentions in the minds of people which are far from the reality,” he said.
Still, the tactic was criticised by former FIFA anti-corruption adviser Mark Pieth who helped bring Scala, a Swiss pharmaceutical industry executive, to FIFA four years ago.
“[Infantino] is actually exactly working like (Michel) Platini and Blatter,” Pieth told the Associated Press in a telephone interview late Friday. “We desperately want to go beyond that now.”
Pieth suggested that Infantino disagreed over a salary offer of two million Swiss francs (1.8 million euros) made by a three-member FIFA remuneration panel headed by Scala.
“It is personal, it is very clear,” Pieth said. “He wants more than the two million that Domenico is offering him.”
(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)