The 37 members of the FIFA Council met three times in 2021 – in March, May and October. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all sessions were held virtually.
At its first meeting of 2021, the Council conferred on the FIFA Congress the power to award FIFA Women’s World Cup hosting rights. The proposal was put forward for a final decision at the 71ˢᵗ FIFA Congress, which met virtually on 21 May, and was unanimously passed.
The organisation’s Annual Report containing the financial statements for 2020 and the 2022 budget was also approved at the meeting.
Council members also received a report on the international football situation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bureau of the FIFA Council had extended the temporary amendments to the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players regarding the release of players for international duty to April 2021, and FIFA, the confederations, and FIFA’s member associations committed to remain in dialogue with national authorities about exemptions from quarantine rules for national-team players.
The Council recognised that football’s highest priority was the health of the players, and the discussion around the release of players for international duty therefore had to maintain this perspective, especially as the public health situation continued to evolve around the world.
Finally, the Council approved the competition regulations for the FIFA Arab Cup 2021, confirming the match schedule and draw procedure for the competition, which took place in Qatar from 30 November to 18 December 2021.
“The Council recognised that football’s highest priority was the health of the players, and the discussion around the release of players for international duty therefore had to maintain this perspective.”
On the eve of the 71ˢᵗ FIFA Congress, the Council reconvened for the second time in 2021, again virtually, due to the challenges created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Top of the agenda was a third package of reforms to the transfer system, which was subsequently approved. The reforms concerned important regulatory matters regarding the international transfer of minors, squad sizes (in particular with respect to loans), player registration periods (transfer windows), financial regulation and related matters, including collective bargaining agreements, sporting just cause and registration.
At the same meeting, the Council also approved key dates for the international match calendars, chief among which were the tournament dates for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 (namely, 20 July to 20 August 2023). A new play-off tournament prior to the final competition will also be held from 13 to 23 February 2023.
In addition, the Council approved dates for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup India 2022 (11-30 October 2022), the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2022 (10-28 August 2022) and a 14-team play-off tournament for the FIFA Arab Cup 2021, which took place between 19 and 25 June of that year.
Finally, the Council approved the establishment of respective FIFA subsidiaries to manage the organisation of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand and the FIFA World Cup 2026 in Canada, Mexico and the USA.
Convening once again by videoconference for its third session of the year, the Council agreed to the holding of a global summit on 20 December 2021 to discuss the future of football after receiving a detailed update on the ongoing consultation process on the topic.
“We need to think about how we develop the football of the future and to ensure our sport is meaningful, exciting and robust for future generations across the entire world.”
Speaking after the meeting, President Infantino said: “We need to think about how we develop the football of the future and to ensure our sport is meaningful, exciting and robust for future generations across the entire world.”
He continued: “This is not necessarily the case today, and as the international match calendars are not decided beyond 2023 and 2024 for women’s and men’s football respectively, this is a crucial moment to ensure the further development of our sport across all 211 FIFA member associations. As mandated by the recent FIFA Congress, FIFA is considering all opinions in an inclusive and thorough consultation process.
“Everyone should have their voice heard, and precisely through the consultation process, I have discovered that many stakeholders have never had the opportunity to discuss this topic properly."
“This consultation process is addressing that, and we will continue with the objective of reaching a consensus with solutions that work for everyone’s benefit. By hosting a global summit later this year, we will now have the opportunity to present one plan and to provide feedback to all our FIFA member associations.”
During the 17ᵗʰ FIFA Council meeting, it was also confirmed that the 72ⁿᵈ FIFA Congress would be held on Thursday, 31 March 2022 in Doha, Qatar, in conjunction with the Final Draw for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. The FIFA President also took the opportunity to inform Council members of his intention to be closer to the FIFA World Cup and, therefore, to divide his presence between Zurich, Doha and across the world, in order to deliver his presidential duties.
In addition, the FIFA Council also appointed the United Arab Emirates to host the seven-team FIFA Club World Cup 2021™ in early 2022.
In relation to the current international match calendar for women’s football (2020-2023), the FIFA Council approved three amendments:
FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 play-off tournament: 13–23 February 2023
International window: 10–18 July 2023
FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023: 20 July – 20 August 2023