FIFA president Gianni Infantino has expressed shock and sadness at the series of allegations regarding corruption in English football that were made in The Daily Telegraph last week.
The national newspaper published a series of revelations, one of which led to England manager Sam Allardyce’s exit after he was filmed suggesting third-party ownership rules could be circumvented.
Speaking at the refurbished Windsor Park in Belfast, where he is a guest of honour for Northern Ireland’s World Cup qualifier with San Marino, Infantino spoke of his concern that even more stories could emerge.
“First of all I was very surprised,” he told Press Association Sport. “Then I felt very sad because when stories like this come out with regard to corruption, money flows and so on, it’s not good for football, definitely.
“When you hear that this is only the tip of the iceberg and there is maybe more to come then this is maybe more worrying. Now before taking any final judgement, we have to wait for the investigation by the FA and then we will see how to move on.”
A FIFA spokesperson had said earlier this week that their transfer system on third-party ownership, which prevents an investor or groups of investors owning a share in a player’s commercial rights, had become “more difficult to be abused.”
The practice was banned in England eight years ago, with FIFA following suit last year, yet in footage released by The Telegraph, Allardyce claimed there were ways around the regulations.
And Infantino conceded that he was worried some in the game may still be trying to bend the rules.
“It looks as if it is still an issue,” he added. “It’s something that we need to look at. We’ve always been saying that third-party ownership is an issue in the sense that it influences the game and we cannot allow the game to be influenced by economic interests of third parties. We need to look into that and try to get it out.”
Infantino was in Northern Ireland, along with a sell-out 18,600 crowd, for the first international to be staged at Windsor Park since its development was complete.
The fixture came a year to the day since Michael O’Neill’s side clinched qualification for Euro 2016, their first major tournament in 30 years.
“Windsor Park is absolutely beautiful,” he said. “When we will see it later on full it will just vibrate. This is what football fans love.
“It’s a real football stadium. It was about time for a football country like Northern Ireland to have a stadium where the national team can play its matches. The fans deserve it, the players deserve it.
“We have seen it this summer in France. It was amazing on the pitch but it was even more amazing in the stands and a great compliment to the Northern Irish fans.”