Fifa was plunged into fresh turmoil on Saturday night after new president Gianni Infantino was accused of killing its reform process and of deliberately forcing out the man who helped save the corruption-plagued body from extinction.
Infantino’s conduct was compared to that of Sepp Blatter after he staged a secret power grab during the organisation’s annual congress to “destroy” a key pillar of the changes undergone by the organisation to make him and his council more accountable.
His actions are understood to have followed a clash with fellow Swiss Domenico Scala – the independent chairman of Fifa’s audit and compliance committee and compensation committee – over the amount he would be paid to succeed the disgraced Blatter.
Scala resigned in protest on Saturday after the new council, on which former Manchester United chief executive and current Football Association vice-chairman David Gill sits as a vice-president, proposed a shock change to the statutes which was waved through by compliant or somnambulant member associations – including the FA – in Mexico City late on Friday night.
The amendment gave the council – and effectively Infantino himself – unprecedented power to sack members of the independent bodies whose job it is to police any corrupt activity within the organisation.
They include the ethics committee, which brought down Blatter and Michel Platini and several more of football’s most senior officials.
Their ability to operate without the threat of interference from Infantino and his colleagues was seen as crucial to the credibility of Fifa’s pledge to end its corrupt ways and avoid being wound up following last year’s wave of arrests and convictions which brought it to its knees.
The highly-respected Scala, who came to prominence following Blatter’s resignation speech last summer, drove the reform process, helping satisfy United States and Swiss prosecutors that the world governing body was cleaning up its act.
Condemning the about-turn, he said: “With this decision, it will henceforth be possible for the council to impede investigations against single members at any time, by dismissing the responsible committee members or by keeping them acquiescent through the threat of a dismissal.
“I am consternated about this decision, because it undermines a central pillar of the good governance of Fifa and it destroys a substantial achievement of the reforms.”
Scala described his resignation as “a wake-up call”, while Mark Pieth, the Swiss governance expert originally employed by Fifa to oversee its reform efforts, said of Infantino: “He is actually exactly working like Platini and Blatter. We desperately want to go beyond that now.”
Pieth said the new president had disagreed with Scala over his 2 million Swiss francs (£1.4m) salary, lower than that paid to Blatter.
“It is personal, it is very clear,” Pieth said. “He wants more than the two million that Domenico is offering him.”
Scala is also understood to have opposed the process by which Infantino appointed Fifa’s first female and non-European secretary general, United Nations humanitarian co-ordinator Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura.
Fifa responded by accusing Scala of making “baseless claims” and arguing he had “misinterpreted the purpose” of Friday’s statute change.