December 30 – FIFA President Gianni Infantino says football has been a vital tool in helping the world deal with the terrible effects of the Covid-19 pandemic but has repeated his stance that a rethink is needed over how competitions are organised in the future.
Speaking at Dubai’s annual International Sports Conference, Infantino said the game offered a beacon of hope and was a harbinger of peace, unity and solidarity as communities globally come to terms with how the virus has decimated their lives.
“I have been coming to this Conference quite a few times, but I think this year is a special year, and the fact we are here united and reunited, marks a little step – not yet into normality – but a little step into the right direction,” Infantino told delegates.
“We are playing in front of empty stadiums, but there are millions watching. We will all work together to bring back spectators, safely of course, into stadiums because that is what we are about”.
In his address he also referred to the $1.5 billion COVID-19 Aid Plan that FIFA has set up to benefit its 211 member associations in order to alleviate the financial impact of the pandemic.
The package, he said, was not designed to fund the professional game at elite level “but to help the game all over the world – the grassroots game, the women’s game, to keep the flame of football burning.”
Infantino also touched upon the increasingly thorny issues of too much football and club versus country when it comes to the number of games played.
“This period where we have been locked down has also given us possibilities to think about the future of football,” he said.
“Maybe we need to start reconsidering the way we have been organising football so far.”
“Maybe we need to look again at the formats of our competitions and we need to see how we can find a better balance between national teams and clubs, between leagues and cups, between long competitions and short. Maybe this is the time where we need to reduce a little bit travel in order to preserve health.”
Without specifically referring to UEFA or Europe’s elite clubs, Infantino also couldn’t resist having a veiled dig at Europe where most of the big money continues to be circulated.
“Football is global. The vision of FIFA is certainly to make football even more global than what it is today,” he said.
“Even if football is global, the reality is that it is concentrated, of course, in a few countries only and we need to make this bigger with new ideas,
“This is the task, this is the mission of FIFA, of course, to organise, to generate, to distribute revenues in the entire world.”
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