KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: FIFA’s $1.5bn pandemic relief support for its worldwide membership was unequalled by any other world sports federation, according to Gianni Infantino.
The president of the world football federation was addressing its 70th annual congress, organised online for the first time, out of Zurich.
FIFA’s response to the financial damage arising out of the Covid-19 crisis was the major theme of Infantino’s presidential address. Remarkably FIFA itself, by delving into its reserves, cutting costs and shuffling its budgetary forecasts, has suffered comparatively minimal financial damage itself.
Infantino told presidents and general secretaries of all 211 member associations: “We were able to act quickly and decisively, we prepared a relief plan for a global vale of €1.5bn. This is unprecedented and has no equal in sport.
“We have been able to do this because FIFA is in a very healthy and solid situation which has enabled us to multiply five times the forward programmes compared with the past and set aside significant reserves should FIFA face a crisis.
“FIFA is not facing a crisis but football is. FIFA should be there to help and assist wherever we can.”
Infantino used the issue as a vehicle to vindicate his own leadership of a reformed FIFA, only five years after the world federation crashed into corruption-battered chaos.
The Swiss-Italian said: “We have this money because in the new FIFA the money doesn’t disappear any more – it goes to football to help football. We know exactly where this money goes and why. We know it will not solve all the problems but it helps – it helps our youth, the amateur games, our women’s football, all those who need some help.”
The relief plan had meant reviewing and addressing problems concerning health care, player welfare, the transfer system and the international calendar amid a cascade of international match postponements around the world. Now the urgent need was for a revival of competition and live crowds.
Infantino said: “We need football to come back to the stadia. We need to keep heath as our No1 priority and look at the different protocols so we can fill those stadia once again. I hope the future will be bright and better than the normal of the past.”
On other issues Infantino defended his own dealings with the Swiss judicial system, hailed the success of last year’s Women’s World Cup and the transparency of the bidding system which had chosen Australia and New Zealand to host the finals in 2023.
He also promised greater focus, with international agencies, on the fight against child abuse, against matchfixing and stricter sanctions in combatting racism and discrimination.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino told a subsequent media briefing that:
1, The Club World Cup in December will be postponed until January at the earliest;
2, Progress on FIFA-led reforms of the African confederation CAF have stalled because of the Covid-19 pandemic; and
3, Cooperation between FIFA and the regional confederations over the pandemic should encourage a better understading in negotoations over the international match calendar post-2024.