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Fifa unveils $1.5bn Covid relief fund, endorses World Cup warm-up tournament

FIFA headquarters prior to the international friendly match between Egypt and Greece (Photo by Sebastien Bozon/Icon Sport via Getty Images)

Fifa has approved a Covid-19 relief plan that will make up to $1.5bn (€1.3bn) available to support the global football community, while it has also teamed up with the Qatar Football Association to deliver a pan-Arab tournament in the Gulf state in late 2021 as part of preparations for the 2022 World Cup.

The relief plan has been designed by the Fifa administration in close cooperation with representatives from continental confederations. Full details of the plan have been revealed after Fifa announced in April that it would distribute $150m in operational funding due to its member associations for 2019 and 2020, with each of the 211 national governing bodies receiving a minimum of $500,000.

The first two stages of the plan also gave member associations the opportunity to transform Forward Development grants into Covid-19 operational relief funds, with a minimum of 50 per cent of released funds to be allocated to women’s football.

The third stage, approved by the Fifa Council yesterday (Thursday), centres on a system of grants and loans. A universal solidarity grant of $1m will be offered to all member associations, with an additional grant of $500,000 to be allocated specifically to women’s football. Each confederation will also be given a grant of $2m.

Additionally, member associations will be eligible to apply for interest-free loans amounting to up to 35 per cent of their audited annual reviews. Loans will range in value from $500,000 to $5m. Each confederation will have access to a loan of up to $4m.

Member associations will be able to direct grants and loans to the wider football community in their respective territories, including clubs, players, leagues or others that have been affected.

The relief plan also includes a governance model, which will introduce strict controls on the use of funds and audit requirements, and include clear loan repayment conditions. A steering committee will be set up to supervise the administration of the scheme and will be led by Olli Rehn, the deputy chairman of the Fifa Governance Committee who also serves as the Governor of the Bank of Finland and a member of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank.

Meanwhile, the Fifa Council has supported an invitational competition for men’s national teams from Arab nations from Africa and Asia. The tournament will be played from December 1-18, 2021 and will involve home-based players only.

The organising committee for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will deliver the 22-team tournament and will allow the organisers to use facilities and run operations that are planned for the World Cup. The tournament will take place during the same timeframe of the World Cup, with the finals of the two competitions to be held on the same day, one year apart.