FIFA hands out $45m in loans under covid relief plan, but $1.5bn is available

FIFA shadows

By David Owen

April 5 – FIFA doled out not far off $50 million of interest-free loans to national associations during the first six months when its covid-19 relief plan was in operation.

The $45.8 million figure – part of $340.1 million disbursed under the plan between its approval last June and the 2020 year-end – is revealed in an annexe to the football body’s recently-published annual report.

When the FIFA council unanimously approved the plan on June 25, it was stated that it would “make available up to $1.5 billion to assist the football community”.

The new annexe breaks this down as follows: up to $152 million from immediate release of 2019-2020 FIFA Forward operational cost entitlements to national associations; up to $465 million from the ability to transform remaining FIFA Forward development project grants into covid-19 operational relief funds; up to $223 million from new solidarity grants; up to $105.5 million from new women’s football grants; and up to $556 million in loans.

Since the first two sums on this list amount to relabelling of FIFA Forward items and the last – the loans – would need by definition to be paid back, it could be argued that only $328.5 million of the $1.5 billion is completely new FIFA money.

Moreover, early uptake of the two biggest-ticket items – the development project grant transformations and the loans – has been far below the theoretical maximums. The year-end running total for loans – $45.8 million – amounted to 8.2% of the total available. That for the grant transformation scheme – just $293,000 – was comfortably below 1% of funds theoretically available. This seems a particular pity since “a minimum of 50%” of funds released in this way were to have been allocated to women’s football.

More encouragingly for the women’s game, 69% of the women’s football grants made available under stage 3 of the relief plan – so $72.5 million of funding – had been released by the year-end.

The 18-page annexe gives an exhaustive, country-by-country breakdown of how both FIFA Forward funds and stage 3 grants have been allocated up to the year-end, but there is no indication of which associations are responsible for the $45.8 million of relief-plan loans. Requests to FIFA for this information eventually yielded the following reply.

“First of all, please apologise for not coming back to you earlier. The list of member associations benefitting from the Covid-19 Relief Plan both in terms of grants and interest-free loans changes on a regular basis. FIFA is expecting to provide a new update ahead of the upcoming Congress. As far as loan repayments are concerned, the terms of the loan vary depending on the case-specific circumstances of the application which is handled by the FIFA administration and reported to the Steering Committee in line with the relevant regulations (https://img.fifa.com/image/upload/rr6vyahcjzjzzo0aiebj.pdf).”

As far as I can see, a total of five national associations had had no funds at all allocated to them under the covid relief plan by the end of 2020. These were Ivory Coast, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Yemen.

The Top 20 recipients of covid relief plan funds as at the year-end, based on my calculations from the figures provided in the new annexe, were as follows:

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