FIFA President Gianni Infantino has outlined his three immediate priorities for FIFA to support football during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a video message addressed to the 211 FIFA member Associations and shared with members of the FIFA Council on Friday, President Infantino reiterated, in order of priority, that health comes first, that FIFA is ready to pro-actively help football through these exceptional circumstances, and that an ongoing consultation process is taking place to consider the future evolution of the sport.
“Our first priority, our principle, the one we will use for our competitions and encourage everyone to follow is that health comes first,” the FIFA President said. “I cannot stress this enough. No match, no competition, no league is worth risking a single human life. Everyone in the world should have this very clear in their mind. It would be more than irresponsible to force competitions to resume if things are not 100% safe. If we have to wait a little longer we must do so. It’s better to wait a little bit longer than to take any risks.”
Mr. Infantino singled out the member associations’ pro-active involvement in using football to pass important health messaging and sharing in their respective communities at this difficult time. “This is what football and teamwork is all about,” he said, “and we have to continue like this”.
“(For) the emergency relief fund… thanks to the work that we have been doing together in FIFA during the past four years, we are today in a very strong financial situation,” the FIFA President continued. “FIFA enjoys a good reputation on the financial markets… This has helped us consolidate a solid foundation with large reserves. But our reserves are not FIFA’s money. It is football’s money. So when football is in need, we must think what we can do to help… It is our responsibility and our duty.”
The FIFA President stated that a consultation process is already underway to assess the financial impact across football in order to prepare the right response based around a fund with an independent governance structure. “You have to know that we will be there and we will find solutions together,” he said. “You will never be alone… (and) the world will know where the money goes and, equally important, why the money goes there.“
But in order to alleviate immediate financial problems, the FIFA President stated that, subject to relevant committee approval, the second part of member association operational costs from the FIFA Forward Programme due later this year be paid in advance. Mr Infantino added that, given the exceptional circumstances, he has requested that the requirement for the fulfillment of the additional criteria be waived for both 2019 and 2020 in order for the full amount to be paid to all member associations.
“If football manages to have a discussion where everyone contributes positively and keeps in mind the global interest over the individual one, I am convinced our future can be better than our past, and we will be better prepared for the times ahead,” the FIFA President said.
Mr Infantino thanked the Bureau of the Council members and the presidents of all confederations for the unity and solidarity shown at this time, and that such an approach will help football prosper beyond the coronavirus. With an eye to the future, the FIFA President added that the right balance needs to be found to protect both national team and club football in relation to the international match calendar, that flexibility and common sense must prevail in relation to players’ contracts and transfer windows from a legal perspective and that the necessary analyses will be conducted to help member associations via the emergency relief fund.
Although traditional consultation processes have been halted due to the travel restrictions that have been imposed in relation to the coronavirus, the FIFA President requested member associations “to work with the technology available to engage more, to talk about the common challenges that lie ahead, and to think about the future”.
“I am convinced football will play a key role to bring people back together when it’s safe to play again and be with our friends and families in large groups,” he concluded. “Let’s prepare for that moment…FIFA is with you in these difficult times, and together, we will win!”