Suggestions that new FIFA President Gianni Infantino was involved in any wrongdoing over a UEFA broadcasting contract uncovered in the leak of the Panama Papers are “ridiculous”, Reform Committee chairman François Carrard told insidethegames here today.
Infantino, elected as head of the scandal-hit governing body at an Extraordinary Congress in February, came under fire after his name appeared in the leaked documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The 46-year old signed off on a contract with a company under criminal investigation in the United States as part of the widespread probe into corruption within world football's governing body.
The deal in question was agreed with Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, owners of a company called Cross Trading in 2006, and was signed off when Infantino was director of legal services at UEFA.
It involved Cross Trading, an offshore company registered to the small Pacific island Niue, paying $111,000 (£77,000/€97,000) for the Ecuadorian rights to the Champions League, UEFA's flagship club competition, for the 2006 to 2007 and 2008 to 2009 campaigns.
Hugo and Mariano Jinkis then sold them on for almost three times as much to Ecuadorian television broadcaster Teleamazonas, who paid $311,170 (£218,000/€275,000), according to the documents.
There is no suggestion Infantino, who has been a strong advocate of creating a new start for FIFA following the tumultuous developments last year, took a bribe.
The Swiss issued a statement in the aftermath which said he was "dismayed and will not accept that my integrity is being doubted by certain areas of the media".
The fact that he was become embroiled in the scandal, which has sent shockwaves through sport and politics as several key figures have been named, raised old questions about whether FIFA was truly in a new era as the Swiss had claimed both in the lead up to and after his election.
Carrard, director general of the International Olympic Committee between 1989 and 2003 and who was involved in the reform process following the 2002 Salt Lake City bribery scandal, believes the issue has been blown out of proportion and claims Infantino remains the right man to restore the shattered reputation of the organisation.
“I don’t think the Panama Papers are an issue for FIFA,” the Swiss lawyer told insidethegames at the SportAccord Convention here.
“It’s ridiculous - the Panama Papers cover the whole world and Infantino is a man of integrity and I think the world should not be diverted by this.
“In my opinion Mr Infantino is honourable and I think one should not waste much time with the Panama Papers.”
Carrard has been at the helm of the Committee tasked with reforming FIFA following the wave of corruption scandals to have hit the governing body in the past 12 months.
The suggestions the Reform Committee put forward were approved by the Executive Committee late last year and were rubber-stamped at February’s Extraordinary Congress.
A total of 179 countries voted in favour of the proposals, with 22 against and six abstentions.
It includes limiting the head of the corruption-plagued governing body to four three-year terms.
Other key elements include the establishment of a 36-strong FIFA Council, which will replace the ruling Executive Committee.
In a bid to address the gender imbalance within the governing body, six of these must be women.
“The basis and groundwork for FIFA reform has been laid down for opening up the reform process and I don’t think this episode which is typically media dictated will have any impact on that,” Carrard added.
“I will discuss the reforms with him in Mexico City - obviously there is a lot on his agenda but we will see.”