FIFA president Gianni Infantino says he is “dismayed” by sections of the media questioning his integrity following the ‘Panama Papers’ leak.
On Tuesday, the newly elected FIFA president became the latest high-profile footballing figure to be linked to the ongoing controversy after widely released reports claimed that documents within the ‘Panama Papers’ – which have been leaked from law firm Mossack Fonseca to the international press – indicated that, during his time as UEFA’s director of legal services, Infantino signed off on a deal to sell South American broadcasting rights for the Champions League, UEFA Cup and Super Cup to a company called Cross Trading in 2006.
The leaked papers allegedly show that Cross Trading subsequently sold these rights on at a significant mark up.
Two Argentinian businessmen apparently named in the papers as having been behind the Cross Trading deal have since been accused by US prosecutors of involvement in the corruption scandal that engulfed FIFA and eventually led to the departure of Infantino’s predecessor at FIFA, Sepp Blatter.
Neither Infantino nor UEFA are accused of any wrongdoing over the claimed TV rights deal, but in response to the latest reports, both moved to strenuously deny any suggestions of improper conduct with separate statements.
Infantino said: “I am dismayed and will not accept that my integrity is being doubted by certain areas of the media, especially given that UEFA has already disclosed in detail all facts regarding these contracts.
“From the moment I was made aware of the latest media enquiries on the matter, I immediately contacted UEFA to seek clarity. I did this because I am no longer with UEFA, and it is they who exclusively possess all contractual information relating to this query.
“In the meantime, UEFA has announced that it has been conducting a review of its numerous commercial contracts and has answered extensively all media questions related to these specific contracts.
“As I previously stated, I never personally dealt with Cross Trading nor their owners as the tender process was conducted by Team Marketing on behalf of UEFA.
“I would like to state for the record that neither UEFA nor I have ever been contacted by any authorities in relation to these particular contracts.
“Moreover, as media themselves report, there is no indication whatsoever for any wrongdoings from neither UEFA nor myself in this matter.”
UEFA said: “UEFA is dismayed by certain stories in the media suggesting that there might have been untoward or improper conduct in connection with a television rights contract concluded with a company based in Ecuador in 2006.
“For the record, and as repeatedly explained to the media, there was never any suggestion that anything improper took place.
“These explanations have been conveyed to the media in a clear, reasonable, and perfectly transparent way. It is therefore all the more regrettable that, despite the explanations given, some sections of the media have chosen to misrepresent matters and mislead the public by suggesting or implying otherwise.
“It is correct that UEFA was asked some time ago whether it had any commercial dealings with certain companies and/or individuals named in the US indictment.
“At the time of our initial response we had not had the opportunity to check each and every one of our (thousands) of commercial contracts and so the answer given was initially incomplete.
“That is the reason why Gianni Infantino initially thought, based on the information provided by UEFA, that there had been no previous UEFA contracts with any companies and/or individuals named in the indictment. That is also why FIFA gave this information to the media.
“We have now had the opportunity to conduct a full review of our commercial contracts and, as regards this particular TV contract in Ecuador dating back to 2006, it should be pointed out that rights in question were awarded after an open tender conducted by TEAM Marketing, acting on behalf of UEFA. The rights were awarded to Teleamazonas/Cross Trading because they made the highest offer on the market.
“For the record, neither UEFA nor Gianni Infantino have ever been contacted by any authorities in connection with this particular contract. Of course, if UEFA is contacted for any reason then it will be more than happy to cooperate.
“Furthermore, and given the way in which this story has been misrepresented in the media, UEFA wishes to go on record with the statement that Gianni Infantino has been an outstanding member of UEFA staff for many years, a man who has always acted with complete professionalism and integrity, and that this attempted slur on his character and on the reputation of UEFA, based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever, is not only a sad day for football but also a sad day for journalism.
“UEFA would also like to take this opportunity to affirm that as always it is totally open to discuss and explain all relevant background information to the media on this or any other matter.”
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