FIFA audit chairman Scala resigns in protest at Infantino
GENEVA: FIFA audit and compliance chairman Domenico Scala has resigned in protest against a power grab by President Gianni Infantino over control of independent panels that monitor the scandal-hit soccer body.
Scala's walkout on Saturday comes amid claims of tension between the two men over Infantino's salary.
It marks a major challenge to the integrity of Infantino's presidency since he was elected to succeed Sepp Blatter in February.
Scala, who has monitored FIFA's billion-dollar annual spending since 2012, described his resignation as a "wake-up call" for people working to reform FIFA.
Tensions between the two Swiss-Italian men were exposed on Friday at FIFA's annual congress in Mexico City. Member federations voted in new powers to Infantino's ruling council to fire Scala and ethics committee leaders who investigate corruption claims.
Those independent officials have been seen as a key check on FIFA since their appointments were the main achievements of a Blatter-led round of anti-corruption reforms in 2012.
"I am consternated about this decision," Scala said in a resignation statement, citing Friday's move, "because it undermines a central pillar of the good governance of FIFA, and it destroys a substantial achievement of the reforms."
In a speech on Friday, Infantino declared FIFA's corruption-fueled crisis to be over.
Infantino later defended his new powers to remove key people overseeing his work when he was questioned at a news conference.
"Those that are making the comments have not really understood what we are doing," Infantino said in Mexico City, adding his council would have the powers for only one year.
"The judgments need to be made by the quality of the members which are sitting on these boards rather than by making speculations or putting intentions in the minds of people which are far from the reality."
Still, the tactic was criticized by former FIFA anti-corruption adviser Mark Pieth who helped bring Scala, then a pharmaceutical industry executive, to FIFA four years ago.
"(Infantino) is actually exactly working like (Michel) Platini and Blatter," Pieth told the Associated Press in a telephone interview late Friday. "We desperately want to go beyond that now."
Pieth suggested that Infantino disagreed over a salary offer of 2 million Swiss francs ($2.05 million) made by a three-member FIFA remuneration panel headed by Scala.
"It is personal, it is very clear," Pieth said. "He wants more than the 2 million that Domenico is offering him."
Publishing the presidential salary was a central pledge of the latest reform round agreed in February, in which Infantino and Scala were central players.
In March, Blatter's base salary of 2,964,379 million Swiss francs ($3 million) in 2015 was disclosed by FIFA.
It was later disclosed that the incoming president's salary was intended to be less, and that the new secretary general would be the highest paid employee
Asked on Friday about his salary negotiations, Infantino said it was "not yet fixed as far as I am concerned," and it was not important.
Scala directly attacked Infantino's new hiring and firing powers in his resignation statement.
"It will henceforth be possible for the council to impede (ethics) investigations against single members at any time, by dismissing the responsible committee members or by keeping them acquiescent through the threat of a dismissal," he said.
"Thereby, those bodies are factually deprived of their independence and are in danger of becoming auxiliary agents of those whom they should actually supervise."
Pieth, a criminology professor at the University of Basel in Switzerland, said the move to give Infantino new hiring and firing powers could threaten the credibility of reforms intended as a sign to American and Swiss federal prosecutors investigating corruption in world soccer that FIFA would change its culture.
"They are not worth the paper they are written on," Pieth said, suggesting Scala had in recent days "not been accepting offers to step down."