Gianni Infantino.jpg
Photograph: EPA/ANDY RAIN

Gianni Infantino was elected FIFA president on Friday in what football's ruling body hopes will be a major step towards restoring credibility amid continuing US and Swiss corruption investigations.

Infantino's election, which formally ends the 18-year reign of fellow Swiss Joseph Blatter, who is now banned from football for six years, came after FIFA members approved a major reform package.

UEFA general secretary Infantino got the necessary 50-per-cent majority in a second round of voting, garnering 115 of the 207 votes as he left the other favourite, Bahrain's Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, behind on 88 votes.

Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan had four votes and Frenchman Jerome Champagne none. A fifth candidate, Tokyo Sexwale of South Africa, withdrew before the secret ballot in Zurich's Hallenstadion which lasted four hours.

His term is until 2019 as he completes the term Blatter started last year before being sanctioned.

Infantino led the first round with 88 votes. Sheikh Salman had 85 votes, Prince Ali 27, and Champagne seven.

Infantino had campaigned with his experience from UEFA, plans to raise the number of World Cup teams to 40, and distribute more FIFA money to national associations despite difficult financial times.

Most important he wants to restore credibility at the ruling body battered by criminal investigations in the US and Switzerland which have led to multiple arrests and the indictment of officials including six former FIFA vice presidents.

Furthermore, Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini have been banned - and UEFA must now find a new president and general secretary.

""We will restore the image of FIFA and the respect of FIFA. And everyone in the world will applaud us," Infantino pledged after his election.

"It is time to return to football. FIFA has gone through hard times, crisis times. These times are over ... We have to win back the respect, and focus on this wonderful game that is football."

Eariler Friday, 179 voting members or 89 per cent approved the reform package, while 11 members (22 per cent) opposed the reform package.

Acting FIFA president Issa Hayatou and reform commission chairman Francois Carrard had urged delegates to approve the reforms, and so had International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach in a speech before the delegates at the Hallenstadion venue in Zurich.

Major governance changes, term limits for top officials, greater transparency and bigger women's representation are to restore credibility of FIFA and to be implemented within 60 days under the new president Infantino.

Looking at the reforms, Hayatou spoke of "a turning point in the history of football" and said "we are fortunate we can start a new chapter for member federations and governance around the world.

"It is a clear message we understand the need for change. We need time but we are on the right track and can't step back."

Carrard, a former IOC official, said the reforms were "the basic foundation on which they (FIFA) can build the future. They are not end of a process but the beginning of an ongoing process which will be developed over the years."

Acting general secretary Markus Kattner said reforms were necessary to get FIFA out of a financial crisis with a negative financial result for 2015 and currently 550 million dollars short of targeted revenue of 5 billion dollars for the period 2015-2018.

"We must manage costs carefully and reduce costs. Reforms must be approved," he said.

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