As general secretary of the European football association UEFA in 2014, Gianni Infantino intentionally circumvented the work of the body’s internal control panels. This is revealed by documents provided to DER SPIEGEL by the whistleblower platform Football Leaks and shared by the newsmagazine with the international reporting group European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) and three other partners.
According to these documents, Infantino ensured that Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, both owned by emirates in the Gulf, received only mild penalties for their massive violations of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules. These budgetary regulations stipulated that a club’s deficit in the two seasons between 2011 and 2013 could only add up to a total of 45 million euros. UEFA investigators and independent auditors found, however, that PSG’s deficit was 218 million euros and Man City’s was 188 million euros. As a result of those violations, the two clubs potentially faced being banned from participation in the Champions League, the harshest penalty. The Qatari owners of PSG and the owners of Manchester City, who come from Abu Dhabi, tried to prevent such a penalty by exerting massive pressure on UEFA leadership.
The documents from Football Leaks show that Infantino, who is from Switzerland, fought on behalf of the clubs, despite being general secretary of the investigating association. During the ongoing FFP investigation, Infantino held secret meetings with club leaders from Paris and Manchester on multiple occasions, provided them with confidential details and proposed compromises that he was not authorized to offer. In a May 2, 2014, email to Manchester City Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, Infantino sketched out suggestions for a settlement with the association. “You will see that I’ve sometimes chosen a wording which ‘looks’ more ‘strong,'” Infantino wrote, making it clear that he was willing to massage certain passages. “Please read the document with this spirit.” Of course, Infantino continued, the document was just between the two of them, which is to say, highly confidential.
In May 2014, the two clubs signed agreements with UEFA that hardly affected their bottom at all. A few days prior, Scottish economic expert Brian Quinn, who, as head of the FFP Investigatory Chamber, would have been in charge of the proceedings against the two clubs independent of UEFA leadership, resigned from his post. He believed the settlements were too lenient given the magnitude of the violations. In the years following the settlements, PSG and Manchester City together spent more than a billion euros on new Players.