World football’s governing body is reportedly weighing a plan to relocate its Swiss headquarters to somewhere more conducive to hiring non-Europeans and less renowned for corporate secrecy.
FIFA's president Gianni Infantino, a Swiss-Italian lawyer who has run the international organization since 2016 after its longtime Swiss leader Sepp Blatter was ousted amidst corruption investigations, asked for an internal study into the feasibility of FIFA leaving Zürich, the New York Times reported.
The impetus for the move, according to the report, are difficulties under Swiss law in hiring staff from outside Europe and a growing awareness that Switzerland's reputation for corporate secrecy may hinder Infantino's pledge to restore public trust and deliver on his promise of transparency. FIFA officials say Swiss law makes it difficult to recruit staff from abroad.
FIFA, founded in Paris in 1904, has been headquartered in Zürich since 1932. It held the first World Cup at Uruguay in 1930 and has grown into a multibillion-dollar operation that includes 211 national associations and associated men's national teams plus 129 women's national teams.
Its Swiss headquarters, built in an unusual shape inspired by a football stadium, was completed only 13 years ago at a cost of 240 million Swiss francs.
Interest in India
FIFA was pushed to the limit by the much-publicized bribery and corruption scandal that erupted in 2015 from the U.S. Department of Justice’s sprawling investigation of international football corruption, Infantino told FIFA's Congress in 2016.
It been trying to restore public trust it lost when it was under the direction of FIFA's longtime chief Sepp Blatter, a Swiss sports administrator since the 1970s. The organization has shaken up its top ranks and put in place various internal reforms aimed at reassuring the public.
Infantino won election to a second four-year presidential term in June, continuing his grip on an organization that forced out Blatter and Blatter's long-time protégé, Michel Platini, as president of European football body UEFA. Infantino, who was Platini’s general secretary at UEFA, also was investigated and cleared by a FIFA ethics committee over his use of private jets.
Praful Patel, president of the All India Football Federation, told India sports magazine Sportstar that he is exploring ways to set up a FIFA office in New Delhi.
"I cannot dictate whether there can be a FIFA office in Delhi. But there is a regional system," he said. "There used to be a regional office for South Asia here, and now it’s a little more expanded. Given the size of India and the subcontinent, we should look for something more substantial. I will be pushing for it."