Fifa’s revenues have outstripped the organisation’s own projections, rising to $6.4bn in the four-year period that included the 2018 World Cup in Russia (2015-18). The international federation’s cash reserves increased to $2.74bn (€2.42bn) in the same cycle.
The figures, obtained by The Associated Press, indicate that the global governing body has survived the worst of the US-led investigation into corruption at the organisation, which began in 2015.
At the Fifa Congress last June, the football federation projected cash reserves to increase to $1.653bn in the four-year cycle, but the AP said people with knowledge of Fifa’s finances indicate they have actually increased to $2.74bn.
The last four-year cycle, which ended with the 2014 World Cup In Brazil (2011-14), generated $5.718bn in revenues and left Fifa with cash reserves of $1.523bn.
The figures are even more impressive given the fallout from the US federal investigation and the constraints it placed on Fifa’s commercial activities. The scandal is thought to have harmed the organisation’s sponsorship programme more than its media rights sales. Fifa commercial director Philippe Le Floc’h admitted as much in an interview with SportBusiness at the time of the World Cup last year.
“There was a long period where everything was on hold, and consequently we only had 18 months to do the job that is normally done over 3.5 to four years,” he said, when asked why three sponsorship positions remained unsold for the event. “We had to prioritise and have achieved a lot within the given timeframe and have exceeded our revenue targets for 2015-18.”
In the same interview, Le Floc’h said Fifa was likely to exceed its target to earn $3bn from TV rights sales for the 2015-18 period.
The improved results have allowed Fifa president Gianni Infantino to carry through with his promise to increase payments to member associations and confederations, announced ahead of his election in 2016. A financial document seen by the AP indicates that spending on development projects will increase from $1bn for the 2011-14 cycle to $1.079bn for the 2015-18 cycle. The $538m spent on the Financial Assistance Programme for national associations and confederations had increased to roughly $832m for the most recent cycle according to the same document.
The payments will help strengthen the president’s position within Fifa, even though he is due to be re-elected unopposed in June for a further four-year term.
Infantino’s plans to expand the Fifa Club World Cup, and develop a Global Nations League along the same lines as Uefa’s Nations League, are predicated on the need to further increase revenues at Fifa. With a healthier budget and his re-election secure, the question is whether the projects will have the same impetus as they did before.