FIFA estimates COVID-19 will cost global football US$11 billion

FIFA estimates COVID-19 will cost global football US$11 billion

With matches including the Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain
With matches including the Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain being played behind closed doors because of coronavirus, clubs are making heavy losses. (AFP/MATTHEW CHILDS)

BELLINZONA, Switzerland: FIFA on Wednesday (Sep 16) put the cost of COVID-19 on football around the world at US$11 billion in lost revenue.

The pandemic has already led to more than 150 football associations to seek financial help from the US$1.5 billion emergency relief fund set up by football's governing body.

Olli Rehn, chairman of FIFA's coronavirus steering committee, laid bare for the first time the true financial impact the virus has had on the game through fixture list chaos, empty stadiums and loss of TV rights revenue.

"It's a huge number and it covers the football economy in its entirety, including all youth academies," Rehn, a Finnish politician and governor of the Bank of Finland, told a press conference.

"This will impact next year as well, there is a carry over.

"That is why this COVID-19 relief fund is not time-bound - they may request loans later on if they need to," Rehn, who is also independent deputy chairman of the FIFA Governance Committee, said.

He said that while Europe was hit hardest in terms of absolute cost, it was the associations outside Europe which "have suffered more".

"In particular in South America, many on account of their relative means and the spring to autumn season," he said.

Last month European Club Association chairman Andrea Agnelli predicted lost revenue of €4 billion (US$4.7 billion) over two years for its member clubs.

Each national association can request a FIFA grant of US$1 million (US$2 million for confederations) plus US$500,000 for women's football.

Loans are available to national associations up to a maximum value of US$5 million (US$4 million for confederations).

Rehn was at pains to stress that unlike in the past it was imperative the money made available by FIFA "is being used for the right purposes".

"Corruption has no room in football," he stated.

"Good governance is at the heart of this COVID-19 relief fund," he said.

"We have made this clear to member associations. I know some member associations have complained about heavy compliance procedures - I'm quite used to that. We do require full compliance and we have been working with globally-known auditing companies.

He gave some examples of how the relief fund is already being put into use, like in Thailand, where it has helped restart the national league competition, including coronavirus testing, but also to implement video assistant referee (VAR) technology.

Mexico spent its entire US$1.5 million grant on its national women's league, and in Brazil the funds are supporting the testing programme in the women's competition.

And in Uruguay, the money has helped the federation rehire staff it had been forced to lay off, who were crucial to its effective operation.

Source: AFP/kv