- Associated Press - Sunday, March 6, 2016

CARDIFF, Wales (AP) - Newly-elected Gianni Infantino is standing firm against the FIFA administration’s determination that he is only an ambassadorial president, declaring he will be the ultimate boss of world football.

In a shakeup of FIFA in the wake of scandals, a separation of powers is being implemented that hands the CEO-like secretary general control of business operations and a larger salary than the president.

In a document seen by The Associated Press last month, FIFA’s communications staff told candidates to publicly say if they won: “The president’s role will be strategic, ambassadorial and no longer executive.”

That job description seemed weaker than the one envisaged in December by FIFA’s reform committee: “The president should be the public ‘ambassador’ of FIFA and aim to foster a positive image of the organization.”

Infantino was a member of that reform panel established in response to criminal investigations into football corruption. And Sepp Blatter’s successor said he will not be subservient to his yet-to-be appointed secretary general.

“I was elected by the FIFA congress to be the leader of FIFA - to be leading FIFA, not to be the ambassador of FIFA or to be the deputy of the general secretary of FIFA,” Infantino said. “This is the role I want to fulfil. It’s not a question of money of course. It’s a question of institution and credibility.”

The AP reported last week that FIFA’s three-man remuneration committee decided presidents will now be paid less than the secretary general. During a visit to Cardiff for a meeting of football’s law-making body, Infantino said he does not know his FIFA salary yet.

A priority for the former UEFA general secretary is hiring someone for that role at FIFA, replacing Jerome Valcke, fired in January over a ticketing and TV rights scandal as well as expenses abuses.

“The general secretary will have to be a very important role,” said Infantino, who plans to hire a non-European. “I have been general secretary until last Friday of a confederation, UEFA, so I know exactly what it means.

“I know exactly how the chemistry has to work between the president and the general secretary, how the relationship has to be and what kind role the general secretary has.”

Preparing for his second week in power, Infantino is determined to be a hands-on president.

“I am a worker, I will remain a worker, I am someone who has energy and I will remain someone who has energy,” said Infantino, a 45-year-old Swiss-Italian.

“I’m trying to do the right thing, certainly making a lot of mistakes as well. But only if you don’t do anything, you don’t make mistakes. Even if make mistakes, I hope to do many more good things.”

Infantino is still getting accustomed to the focus on the FIFA president, having only stood in the Feb. 26 election because UEFA President Michel Platini was suspended from world football.

While keen to create a new image for FIFA, which was led for 17 years by Sepp Blatter, Infantino knows he has to “look a little bit like a president” and not just abandon suits and ties.

“It is also an institution and we shouldn’t forget that an institution also needs to be protected and also needs to convey a certain image sometimes,” Infantino said.


Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

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