FIFA Council approves COVID-19 Relief Plan, vote multi-million dollars for women’s football

Harry Awurumibe, Editor, Abuja

Determined to take women’s football to greater heighs by the current leadership of the Federation of International Football Association
(FIFA), a multi-million fund is to be made available forthe development of the game across the world.

This cheering news was one of the important decisions taken on Thursday by
the FIFA Council convened by video conference at its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland just as the Council made important decisions for the future of football. Top of the decisions was the selection of Australia and New Zealand as hosts of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

Also, Council gave approval for FIFA to make a total of USD 1.5 billion available to football and in the face of the pandemic, Council endorses changes to the International Match Calendar even as it also approves a revised budget for the 2019-2022 cycle.

However, Council approved several measures with a view to responding to COVID-19 and helping football around the world in the face of the pandemic and its aftermath, namely:

FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan

The Council unanimously approved the FIFA COVID‑19 Relief Plan, which was designed by the FIFA administration in close cooperation with representatives of the confederations. Across its three stages, this global support plan will make available up to USD 1.5 billion to assist the football community.

In the first two stages of the plan, FIFA provided for the immediate release of all Forward operational‑cost payments to member associations and, subsequently, for the opportunity to transform Forward development grants into COVID-19 operational relief funds – with a minimum of 50% of released funds to be allocated to women’s football .

In stage three, approved by the Council today, further financial support will be provided through a system of grants and loans:

o Grants: a universal solidarity grant of USD 1 million will be made available to all member associations, and an additional grant of USD 500,000 will be allocated specifically to women’s football. In addition, each confederation will receive a grant of USD 2 million.

o Loans: member associations will be able to apply for interest-free loans amounting to up to 35% of their audited annual revenues. In the interest of solidarity, a minimum loan of USD 500,000 will be available and a maximum of USD 5 million. In addition, each confederation will have access to a loan of up to USD 4 million.

Both grants and loans can be directed by member associations to the wider football community in their respective territories, including clubs, players, leagues, or others that have been affected.

Governance model: to ensure effective oversight of the plan, there will be strict controls on the use of funds, audit requirements, as well as clear loan repayment conditions. A FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan steering committee will also be established to supervise the administration of the scheme.

Olli Rehn, the deputy chairman of the FIFA Governance Committee, has been appointed to lead this committee. He is also the Governor of the Bank of Finland, a member of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank and a former Vice-President of the European Commission.

As a next step, the principles of the plan will be consolidated in a set of regulations to be put forward to the Bureau of the FIFA Council.

Revised budget

The members of the Council approved the 2021 annual budget and the revised budget for the 2019-2022 cycle, both of which were the result of a comprehensive assessment of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

International Match Calendar

As a result of an extensive consultation process with the confederations and stakeholders across the football landscape, the COVID-19 FIFA-Confederations Working Group agreed to put forward five proposals in relation to the Men’s International Match Calendar in the wake of the pandemic. Below are the five proposals, which were unanimously approved by the Council today:

o to move the intercontinental play-offs for the FIFA World Cup 2022™ from March 2022 to June 2022;

o to postpone the September 2020 window for the AFC, CAF, Concacaf and the OFC;

o to proceed with the September 2020 window as planned for CONMEBOL and UEFA, subject to continued monitoring of the situation;

o to extend the October 2020 and November 2020 windows by one day for UEFA in order to facilitate the playing of three games instead of the current two; and

o to extend the June 2021 window by seven days for the AFC, CAF, Concacaf and the OFC in order to facilitate the playing of four games instead of the current two.

The COVID-19 FIFA-Confederations Working Group and the stakeholders’ task force will continue their work of monitoring the situation in each confederation, discussing alternative solutions and, if required, putting forward any further proposals to the FIFA Council.

The FIFA Council also supported a pan-Arab tournament to be played in 2021: an invitational competition for men’s national teams that will be contested by Arab nations from Africa and Asia. It will involve home-based players only and be played outside the International Match Calendar. The tournament, which will be held in Qatar from 1-18 December 2021, will be delivered by the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC and will allow the organisers to use facilities and run operations that are also planned for the subsequent FIFA World Cup 2022.

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