2020 at a glance Image
2020 at a glance

Annual Report 2020

7 min. reading time

Health comes first

The rapid spread of COVID-19 brought everyday life to an abrupt halt for the majority of the global population in early 2020, reminding humanity that nothing is more important than health.

With the health and safety of players, staff and fans the single most important consideration, football competitions were suspended around the world as authorities and governments enforced social distancing and other public health measures. As a result, competition organisers and clubs faced considerable financial and professional uncertainty with no ready solutions.

As world football’s governing body, FIFA took immediate action, collaborating with the World Health Organization and enlisting the help of the FIFA Legends to spread crucial health and hygiene messages via social media, and providing concrete support to the global football community.

That support took the form of the FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan: a global support scheme designed in close cooperation with representatives of the confederations. Over three phases, the groundbreaking relief plan would make available USD 1.5 billion from FIFA’s finances to assist all 211 member associations and the six confederations, with dedicated support for women’s, grassroots and other non-elite level football.

FIFA is not facing a crisis, but football is... The money goes where it has to go: to football, and to help football.
Gianni Infantino
FIFA President

Return to football

In a year of disruption caused by the global pandemic, which saw all FIFA tournaments postponed or cancelled, those competitions that could go ahead had to contend with travel restrictions and reduced calendars.

Fitting more matches into a shorter time frame brought certain risks, not least to the health and fitness of the players. To mitigate such risks, FIFA recognised the need for extraordinary measures – including a temporary amendment to the Laws of the Game allowing each team two further substitutions per match – while also making practical adjustments to the men’s and women’s international match calendars.

As the custodian of global football, FIFA has a responsibility to provide appropriate guidance to its members and their stakeholders to mitigate the consequences of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that any response is harmonised in the common interest.

Following an extensive consultation process with the six confederations and stakeholder representatives, FIFA developed the Return to Football – International Match Protocol: a set of guidelines seeking to protect the health of all match attendees, including players and match officials, by providing standardised measures and practices to be applied in connection with international matches.

Distant but united

Technology provided a lifeline throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, facilitating the spread of vital public health information and keeping families, friends and colleagues connected despite social distancing measures and travel restrictions. It also enabled FIFA to continue its daily business with the member associations and confederations, and hold events virtually.

In 2020, all meetings of the FIFA Council and the Bureau of the FIFA Council were held online, ensuring that the most significant issues facing football could be decided unhindered. Likewise, the FIFA Congress, postponed to September, was able to go ahead by videoconference for the first time ever and was attended by all 211 member associations.

With two years to go to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, it was also imperative that the preliminary competitions be defined in order to enable continental qualification to go ahead. FIFA hosted continental preliminary draws live online, ensuring that the international match calendar would not be unnecessarily congested ahead of world football’s showpiece event.

Rounding off 2020, the finest performers in an extraordinary year were crowned as The Best FIFA Football Awards™ went virtual in December. Hosted live from the Home of FIFA in Zurich, nominees for each category connected to discover who had won.

While the global pandemic may have caused disruption to FIFA’s competitions, the organisation’s innovative spirit ensured that world football could continue off the pitch.

Football for social progress

Football is the only sport played in every corner of the world. It has a unique resonance across humanity and, beyond being a mere game, it can be a powerful tool to engage with people on important social issues.

As part of its increased engagement with civil society organisations, in 2020 FIFA signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, launching a cooperation agreement to tackle crime, corruption and abuse in football and sport. The agreement will extend to ensuring that children and young athletes are kept safe from violence and exploitation, via programmes such as FIFA Guardians™, while also harnessing the benefits of sport for women and girls in line with UN resolutions.

FIFA also began a consultation process that includes sports organisations, intergovernmental authorities, governments and specialist agencies with the objective of establishing an independent, multi-sports, multi-agency international entity to investigate abuse cases in sports.

Meanwhile, in December, the football associations of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel signed a historic MoU in a ceremony held in Dubai, attended by FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

It is crucial for the future because it shows that football is uniting, football is bringing people together. They can count on the support from FIFA to organise events, training opportunities and other initiatives to bring not just Israel and the UAE but the whole region closer together through football.
Gianni Infantino
FIFA President

New frontiers

For the first time, a FIFA competition will be co-hosted between two confederations: in June 2020, the FIFA Council awarded the hosting of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ to Australia and New Zealand.

The 2019 edition in France attracted over one billion viewers worldwide and sparked a cultural shift that brought the women’s game into the mainstream of global sport. To further grow the competition, the FIFA Council expanded the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ from 24 to 32 participating teams as of 2023 and doubled FIFA’s investment in women’s football to USD 1 billion over four years.

Following a fully transparent bidding process that featured a record level of interest from potential hosts, the FIFA Women’s World Cup is heading for new frontiers and will be the first major FIFA tournament to be hosted by either country.

Ahead of the 2023 edition, FIFA has launched a new suite of women’s football development programmes that focus on key areas of football and structural development with a tailored approach that considers each member association’s football landscape and needs. In particular, the programmes will help all 211 member associations achieve the FIFA Forward criteria for women’s football, unlocking further funding for investment in the women’s game.

A global vision for football ­

Following four years of successful reforms that brought FIFA a new-found transparency and trust, in 2020 the organisation turned its attentions to the future of football around the world.

Acknowledging that a game that is powerful and popular around the whole planet cannot be played at its highest level in only a few regions, President Gianni Infantino set out FIFA’s vision to make football truly global.

Through The Vision 2020-2023, FIFA will help develop football in all regions of the world so that many more can compete at the very highest level. The goal is to have at least 50 national teams and clubs from all continents competing fully against the current elites of the game.

FIFA’s key mission is to truly globalise, popularise and democratise football for the benefit of the entire world. The plan to make the game more inclusive and truly global – published in February 2020 – is made up of four core areas consisting of 11 goals, with concrete steps to achieve each one, which are grounded in the day-to-day efforts of dedicated football professionals.