Fifa is considering leaving Zurich by changing its statutes

Gianni Infantino is considering moving Fifa headquarters.Image: Getty

Fifa President Gianni Infantino will do everything possible to ensure that the world football body leaves its headquarters in Zurich. Conversely, the federation has communicated its wish to extend its presence in French-speaking Switzerland.

05/15/2024, 6:46 p.m.05/15/2024, 7:25 p.m.

Henry Habegger

Since the off-protocol meetings involving Fifa and the Attorney General of the Confederation, in 2016 and 2017, we know: Gianni Infantino – president of the International Football Federation – likes to preserve secrecy.

However, if FIFA were to announce its move, no one would really be surprised. THE South German Zeitung headlined Tuesday “Secret farewells to Zurich”, specifying thatInfantino sought – during the FIFA Congress on Friday in Bangkok – to pass a revision of the statutes, allowing the body to leave Switzerland. CH Media, the group to which watsonalso has information regarding a possible move outside Swiss territory.

Not long ago, when the Congress agenda – in English – was revealed, there was talk of the transfer of Fifa headquarters. This formulation would then have disappeared. Point 9 now mentions the vote on proposals which aim to modify the statutes of the body.

However, FIFA and Switzerland have a long shared history. Article 1 of the current statutes leaves no doubt about this. The International Football Federation is an association registered in the commercial register, according to the Swiss Civil Code. Paragraph 2 also stipulates that the headquarters of Fifa is in Zurich, and that it can only be transferred by decision of the Congress.

The tactic of salami

If we are active secretly, Fifa does not want to hear about secrecy. “The statutes must be updated to clarify and confirm that the FIFA Congress, as the supreme decision-making body, is competent to determine the location of the organisation’s headquarters,” it said. It is also specified that – unless Congress decides otherwise – the offices will remain in Zurich.

The revision of the statutes has been prepared correctly. In March 2023, the FIFA Council publicly announced that a working group would be created. He worked for a long time on the texts for the Bangkok Congress.

The 211 member federations of Fifa will decide by the end of the week on this modification of the statutes, and as usual, they have received the necessary informative documents a month in advance. The new article 1, paragraph 1, proposes the following text: “FIFA is an association within the meaning of articles 60 et seq. of the Swiss Civil Code.” It would therefore remain a federation under Swiss law. Only the passage which indicates that the association is registered in the Zurich commercial register would be deleted.

The current headquarters of Fifa in Zurich.Image: Imago

Zurich is also deleted from paragraph 2. The mention that the head office is located there has disappeared. Instead, it is written that the legal domicile of Fifa will be determined by a resolution approved by Congress.

According to this proposal soon to be put to the vote, Fifa would therefore remain, rather curiously, an association under Swiss law. The simplest would be for her to continue to be based in the country, but move to another city. For example in Lausanne, on the banks of Lake Geneva, where Infantino has his main residence, according to some observers.

Zurich, still in the transitional measures

If approved, however, the city of Zurich would not be completely wiped out. It remains mentioned at the very end of the statutes, in the transitional provisions. It is written that “the seat and legal domicile will remain in Zurich until the Congress takes a decision in accordance with Article 1, paragraph 2, of these statutes”. This indicates that Congress will make a future decision regarding the location of Fifa headquarters. What Infantino wants to do, however, is not very clear.

Zurich must also disappear – as the documents indicate – from Article 7 of the statutes which define the very essence of world football. Today we read that the International Football Association Board (IFAB) – which decides the rules of this sport – is an association under Swiss law, based in Zurich. This sentence should be deleted, not replaced.

In Zurich since 1932

Fifa was founded in 1904 in Paris and has been based in Zurich since 1932. It was Infantino’s predecessor, Sepp Blatter, who united the body in Zurich for, it was thought, eternity. He had a new headquarters built in Züriberg, called “Home of FIFA”, for 270 million francs. 600 employees work there today.

Some insiders believe that Gianni Infantino wants to demolish everything the Valaisan has built. FIFA headquarters may soon be put up for sale. Recently, the federation sold several buildings in town. This is the case where Blatter lived.

Gianni Infantino – who has always gotten along with authoritarian people, like Trump, Putin or the emirs – continues to transform Fifa into a cash machine. His vision also pushes him to reduce the Swiss factor. This is how in 2021, certain teams were transferred to Paris. Two years later, Infantino opened a branch in Singapore. In 2023, Fifa also transferred 100 positions to Miami, in the United States. This is where the 2026 World Cup will be held, co-organized with Mexico and Canada. The president of the International Association Football Federation himself moved his home to Qatar for a few months, until the 2022 World Cup.

“Fifa is happy in Switzerland”, but wants to strengthen its presence in French-speaking Switzerland

The debate on the future headquarters of Fifa is causing turmoil in the world of football. On Tuesday, the body published a press release from media manager Bryan Swanson, who has undoubtedly interacted for a long time with Gianni Infantino.

“Fifa is happy in Switzerland. There are many sporting and international organizations that have their headquarters in Geneva and Lausanne, but until our members decide otherwise, Zurich remains our main headquarters. In fact, we are considering opening branches in Switzerland and expanding our presence in the country”

Bryan Swanson, in a FIFA press release

Whatever we mean by expansion, the overall message is clear: the Zurich site is set to be reduced. On the other hand, Fifa could become more involved in French-speaking Switzerland. Swanson saw fit to clarify that these possible revisions were not the result of a sudden move by his president.

“The proposed changes are the result of several discussions within a working group in which all six confederations were represented. The president of Fifa was not a member. Nothing was hidden or kept secret. As Fifa is a global body, it goes without saying that we have offices all over the world, including Miami, Paris and Jakarta.

Bryan Swanson, in a FIFA press release

The long statement specifies that FIFA will consider global issues on Friday, and that it will vote on the awarding of the 2027 Women’s World Cup. This is followed by a formidable assertion: “We must take care of more important issues than speculation around our head office.

Swanson also warns: “If the false and misleading allegations continue, our member associations may think we are not welcome in Zurich.” In other words, critical articles in Switzerland could lead to a move. He ends by recalling that the body is welcomed with open arms by many countries: “Fifa currently enjoys an international reputation, which was not the case in 2015”, in the era of Sepp Blatter. .

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