Infantino criticizes Panama Papers TV deal reports as "disgrace"

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has described reporting over a TV contract which emerged in the leaked Panama Papers affair as a "disgrace."

Infantino, who was voted as new president of football's world governing body in February, told Germany's Kicker magazine in an exclusive interview published Monday that the TV contract he signed as legal director of European football's governing body UEFA, was above board.

The 46-year-old Swiss former UEFA general secretary, said he welcomed and was "completely relaxed" about an investigation by Swiss prosecutors.

Documents in the Panama Papers revelations show that Infantino co-signed contracts on Champions League TV rights with a company co-owned by Argentinian brothers Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, who were indicted in the United States in May in a corruption investigation.

But Infantino told Kicker the award of the TV rights were "correct and well documented" with the rights having gone through a tendering process.

"On the one hand I am very relaxed because I know the facts. On the other hand I am completely annoyed because the way it has been portrayed is a disgrace," he said.

Infantino said his signature could be found on "1,000 contracts" as he was eligible along with several other UEFA directors to sign contracts.

The contract which emerged in the Panama Papers - a 2006 deal for Champions League TV rights for Ecuador - was examined by two UEFA divisions and signed by two UEFA directors according to standard UEFA procedure.

"In this case I was one of the two directors, but it could have been two other directors depending on availability," Infantino said.

"The entire procedure was transparent. If after the conclusion of the contract the rights acquirer is said to have carried out unfair business transactions, it is something on which neither UEFA nor I had any influence."

Infantino, who has vowed to reform football after the corruption scandals which had affected FIFA under predecessor Joseph Blatter, denied the latest developments further damaged the body's image.

"The matter will be so quickly cleared up that this won't be the case. On the contrary, when everything is on the table my position will be strengthened," he said.

Infantino meanwhile repeated his preference for a World Cup finals expanded from 32 to 40 teams despite opposition from European clubs.

"I believe it is a good idea but I am not a dictator," he said.

"The issue has to be discussed without prejudice. All arguments should be put on the table.

"I know the position of the European clubs very well. But they also supported me in my election (as FIFA president) and they knew my idea at the time.

"In Europe, expanding the European Championship to 24 nations (from 16) has already proven itself - the qualification for France was very exciting."

Any decision would not be taken "overnight" but should the finals be expanded "it would happen from the 2026 World Cup," he added.

Last update: Mon, 11/04/2016 - 13:42
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