May 21 – Concacaf President and FIFA Vice-President Victor Montagliani has said that the biggest challenge facing federations is not the financial costs being faced right now but the costs of ensuring compliance with health measures in the future. He also felt that it was unlikely to see a return of fans to international matches before the major tournaments in 2021.
Speaking at a Sport Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA) and Soccerex’s Webinar, he said: “This crisis has reminded us just how interconnected we are as a game, and that even the most powerful club or league can be knocked down. I am hopeful that there is humbleness across football after this pandemic, and that we focus on working together. Ultimately, football is all about the fans and the players and games in front of empty stadiums clearly shows this.”
Montagliani echoed the message of other football confederation leaders saying that health must come first, but that football is football and it will return as strong as it was.
“Everyone needs to focus on their families and their health at this time – that is the priority. This time has made us realize how much we miss the game, and how much it is part of our DNA. It will be back, and it will come back strongly. People thought football was at risk when we went through the governance crisis five years ago with the scandals. What football showed was that it survived that, and it survived that because of the players and the fans and the love of the game,” said Montagliani.
But extending that love to playing matches in stadia in front of capacity crowds is still a way off, though the 2021 summer tournaments could provide the pathway back to normality.
“International football will return initially, in all likelihood, without fans. In terms of playing in front of big crowds, I think we are all optimistic that when we hit the big tournaments next summer, starting with the Euros, the Copa America and then obviously the Gold Cup, that will be the beginning of what we knew before in terms of international football with fans in big numbers,” said Montagliani.
“That’s where I see light at the end of the tunnel, in terms of getting back to some normalcy in international football with fans. Obviously there will need to be things put in place between now and then, from a medical perspective. Our hope is that those summer tournaments will be the kick-off of getting back to that international football experience with fans that we all enjoy.”
But before that can happen the governing bodies have significant challenges to understand and adjustments to make.
“At federation level, the biggest threat posed by the current pandemic is not the financial costs occurring now. It is the future extra expenses that we do not yet know, in order to comply with the necessary health regulations, including international travel, that is the biggest concern,” said Montagliani.
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