Fifa, football’s global governing body, has announced that it will release all operational funding due to its member associations for 2019 and 2020 in the first step of a major relief plan to assist football at all levels during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The move will see Fifa distribute $150m (€139m) to its 211 member national governing bodies, with each receiving a minimum of $500,000 to cover operational costs. All remaining entitlements for the years 2019 and 2020 will be paid in full immediately to help associations with cashflow, including payments which usually would have depended on certain criteria being met under the Forward 2.0 development programme.
The funds should “used to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on football”, said Fifa in its statement, “namely to meet financial or operational obligations that they may have towards staff and other third parties.” It said that use of the funds would be audited to ensure they are spent properly, with Fifa keen to avoid the charges of corruption that have dogged the top levels of the sport in recent years.
The statement added that the release of the funds was possible “thanks to the strong financial position that Fifa has been able to consolidate over the past four years.” The governing body has not released its financial results for 2019 yet, but in its statement for 2018 it revealed it was sitting on cash reserves of $2.74bn (€2.42bn) following the four-year cycle up to the end of the Fifa World Cup in Russia.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino said: “The pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges for the entire football community and, as the world governing body, it is Fifa’s duty to be there and support the ones that are facing acute needs.
“This starts by providing immediate financial assistance to our member associations, many of which are experiencing severe financial distress.”
Fifa has said that the next stages of its plan are still being finalised and will be announced in the coming weeks.
The relief package follows World Rugby’s earlier announcement of a similar fund totalling $100m to be released it its own member unions. Although the total value of Fifa’s package is higher, it is responsible for more than double the number of associations – 211 to World Rugby’s 102 – with a significantly higher number of countries playing the sport at an elite level.