COVID‑19 relief plan
Helping football in its hour of need
Without exception, the spread of the coronavirus seriously affected football around the world, leading to the suspension of leagues and the postponement or cancellation of all FIFA tournaments in 2020.
At the peak of the pandemic, football had completely stopped in all but four of FIFA’s 211 member associations (MAs). FIFA immediately started to gather data from MAs, confederations and other stakeholders: the estimated impact of the disruption was around USD 14 billion, or roughly one third of the USD 40-45 billion generated annually by football worldwide.
FIFA-Confederations Working Group
A working group comprising the FIFA administration and top executives from all six confederations was quickly established to address the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a spirit of unity, solidarity and mutual understanding, the FIFA-Confederations Working Group advised the FIFA Council on a number of key topics, including the men’s and women’s international match calendars, the postponement of FIFA competitions, temporary amendments to transfer regulations, and the creation of a global fund to support football.
FIFA COVID‑19 Relief Plan
Approved by the FIFA Council on 25 June, FIFA’s groundbreaking COVID-19 Relief Plan made USD 1.5 billion available to support all 211 MAs and the six confederations to help alleviate the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In close cooperation with the confederations, FIFA developed a three-phase plan, largely funded from the organisation’s solid financial reserves, and governed by regulations setting strict compliance and audit requirements as well as clear loan repayment conditions, under the supervision of a steering committee, chaired by Governor of the Bank of Finland Olli Rehn.
Maximum amount of FIFA Forward operational cost entitlements for 2019 and 2020 released to MAs
MAs able to transform remaining FIFA Forward development project grants into COVID-19 operational relief funds, with a minimum of 50% of released funds allocated to women’s football
MAs entitled to:
a universal solidarity grant of USD 1 million, and an additional grant of USD 500,000 allocated specifically to women’s football. The full amount would be made available by January 2021; and
interest-free loans amounting to up to 35% of their audited annual revenues. In the interests of solidarity, a loan entitlement of between USD 500,000 and USD 5 million was made available.
Within the scope of the third phase, all MAs were able to use the funds for activities such as restarting competitions, implementing return-to-play protocols, participation of national teams in competitions, hiring and re-hiring staff, maintaining their football infrastructure, and general administration and operating costs.
In addition, a grant of USD 2 million and a loan of up to USD 4 million were made available to each confederation.
Compliance and accountability
Having reformed its governance and auditing structures in recent years, FIFA is in a strong financial position and therefore able to implement the COVID-19 Relief Plan. In providing the best possible financial support to member associations and confederations, it is also committed to applying the highest compliance and auditing standards.
Every single member association and confederation that receives funding from FIFA will be audited twice: once by the auditors sent by FIFA under the current system of central reviews and once by its own statutory auditors.
The FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan Steering Committee has worked hand in hand with the FIFA administration to oversee the implementation of the relief plan and to help achieve the right social and economic impact in support of football.
“FIFA is not facing a crisis, but football is... The money goes where it has to go: to football, and to help football.”
Mexican Football Association
“We believe that women’s football has huge potential and it was important, given the pandemic and the impact on clubs’ finances, that the FMF, with the support received from FIFA, provided funds to allow women’s football to keep growing.”
In a strategic move, the Mexican Football Association (FMF) decided to use most of the grants through the FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan to support women’s football. In particular, the FMF is employing the funding to help run the women’s football league – the Liga MX Femenil – and to support the women’s national teams, including through the implementation of safety protocols and COVID-19 tests.
“We’re really grateful for the help we received. It helped us with our expenses and to support our players and the club to keep our environment healthy and free from infections with tests and safety protocols,” said Claudia Carrión, Sports Director at Club América Femenil. “We would love to have the fans here, their support during matches is very important for us. But we also know that, right now, people need to stay home and use face masks. If we take care of each other, the fans will be back soon.”
“It’s amazing to be back playing, we all needed it. Let’s hope it will go on like this, because this is what keeps us healthy and makes us happy,” said Ximena Ríos, a player for Club América.
Football Association of Thailand
In many countries, such as Thailand, the relief plan had an immediate effect, with the domestic league restarting in early September.
“I’m grateful that FIFA sees the importance of football in Thailand,” said Somyot Poompanmoung, President of the Football Association of Thailand (FAT). “COVID-19's worldwide spread hit the football industry especially hard. FIFA funding came at the right time and we were able to use it to develop VAR systems, improve organisation and provide benefits for the footballers.”
The FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan funded the testing of all players and match officials prior to the restart of competitive action, supported the implementation of the video assistant referee (VAR) system in the Thai domestic league, and provided players and officials alike with the opportunity to return to action.
“It's been a long time, six months, that football has been stopped, but for sure life and football should be going on,” said international referee Sivakorn Pu-udom. “We don't stand still. We prepare a lot. We have to change our lives to relate to the situation right now, but we are ready. We are ready to restart. FIFA is supporting the COVID-19 testing in our country. FIFA never left us behind.”
In December 2020, a new generation of players, coaches and administrators took to the pitch and the classroom in a series of competitions and workshops organised by the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA).
With football postponed as a result of COVID-19, the activities – supported by funding from FIFA – represented the restart of organised football for many female players and officials in the region and provided an important step in the development of young players, coaches and a new generation of female football leaders in Africa.
The COSAFA U-15 girls’ schools tournament provided 12 teams from across eight local football associations within an 80km radius of Port Elizabeth with the chance to return to the fray.
Timothy Shongwe, chairman of the COSAFA Competitions Committee, said: “People almost lost hope. If you can organise a tournament of this nature, it is very significant. They learn to play football, but they also learn how to handle themselves during the pandemic.”
Supported by FIFA Forward, female coaches and administrators from Southern Africa also took part in a series of workshops and courses around the COSAFA senior and U-17 women’s championships, including a five-day administration course involving some 30 participants from local associations in the Eastern Cape province.
COSAFA General Secretary Sue Destombes said: “COSAFA’s philosophy is not just about playing the game on the pitch – it’s about developing women across all spheres. Our administration course is specifically for female administrators in sport.”