By Duncan Mlanjira
FIFA will release all operational funding due to member associations for the years 2019 and 2020 in the coming days as the first step of a relief plan to assist the football community impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This measure will mean that a total of around US$150 million will be distributed among the 211 national football governing bodies around the world.
“The pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges for the entire football community and, as the world governing body, it is FIFA’s duty to be there and support the ones that are facing acute needs,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino is quoted as saying in a release on www.fifa.com on Friday.
“This starts by providing immediate financial assistance to our member associations, many of which are experiencing severe financial distress. This is the first step of a far-reaching financial relief plan we are developing to respond to the emergency across the whole football community.
“Together with our stakeholders, we are we assessing the losses and we are working on the most appropriate and effective tools to implement the other stages of this relief plan,” says the FIFA president.
FIFA says the release of the second instalment of operational costs for 2020 was originally due in July but will now be paid immediately.
Under normal circumstances, FIFA’s member associations would have only received the full amount of the contribution upon fulfillment of specific criteria.
Instead, FIFA is now transferring this amount as an active support to help safeguard football across all member associations.
This immediate financial assistance should be used to mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19 on football in member associations, namely to meet financial or operational obligations that they may have towards staff and other third parties.
“The standard obligations and responsibilities in relation to the use of these funds as outlined in the Forward 2.0 Regulations remain fully applicable and will be subject to the standard audit and reporting process,” says FIFA.
“This financial relief plan is possible thanks to the strong financial position that FIFA has been able to consolidate over the past four years.
“The next stages of the plan are currently being finalised and will be communicated in due course.”
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) said this money was already budgeted for its operational activities for July to December 2020 and were expecting to receive it in July.
“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, FIFA has relaxed the rules of accessing the funds so that FAs can cope with the current situation and easily meet its financial obligations,” says FAM’s Competition & Communications Director Gomezgani Zakazaka.
“Just to clarify that the US$500,000 is part of the US$1 million which we receive every year for operations.
“FIFA is still working on the Emergency Relief Fund as a bail out plan for COVID-19 and it will be announced at an appropriate time.”
He added that FAM has been working behind the scenes on how they can respond to the Coronavirus pandemic through a Task Force that was set up the Executive Committee.
“The Executive Committee will be holding a virtual meeting on Monday to review the Task Force report which is geared at assessing the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on football and proposing how we can intervene and respond to the current situation.”
The Task Force comprises Chimango Munthali as chairman, Felister Dossi, Mada Kuyera and FAM general secretary Alfred Gunda.
Meanwhile women’s football will still benefit from investment worth US$1 billion despite the financial impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, says FIFA.
The funding for the women’s game, which covers 2019-2022 will not be cut.
A spokesperson for football’s world governing body said: “This funding has already been committed by FIFA and will not be impacted by the current crisis.
“This funding will be invested into a range of areas in the women’s game including competitions, capacity building, development programmes, governance and leadership, professionalisation and technical programmes.”
The package, announced last year, doubled Fifa’s investment and came from the association’s cash reserves.
The women’s game is enjoying a surge in popularity with last year’s Women’s World Cup watched by a record-breaking 1.12bn viewers.—Additional reporting by the BBC