Around FIFA

FIFA Football Summit 2023

Representatives of FIFA’s 211 Member Associations gathered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on 21 December 2023 to hear from President Gianni Infantino and other senior FIFA officials about past, present and future projects and initiatives that will shape the face of football for generations to come.

Gianni Infantino outlines FIFA’s strategic objectives

In the keynote address, FIFA President Gianni Infantino laid out the four-year strategy (2023-2027) for global football, adding further detail to the plans to develop football he initially presented upon his re-election at the FIFA Congress in Kigali, Rwanda, in March 2023.

“You know where we are heading. You know what we want to do, but also, of course, to achieve these objectives, to achieve these results, we need the support of every one of you because our objectives, our goals are obviously to make football truly global and to involve and include the entire world,” the FIFA President told delegates, referring to the new strategy. “The most important thing that we have to remember is that we are here to organise football, not to organise meetings. So, we must make sure that the meetings are short and efficient, and that they have some results, so that we can go on the pitch and make sure that football is played in every corner of the world by every girl and every boy who just wants to kick a ball.”

AR 2023 - Tactical Plan - EN

Arsène Wenger reveals global FIFA Academies plan

Also speaking at the summit was FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development Arsène Wenger, who announced FIFA’s goal of ensuring that each of its 211 Member Associations have at least one high-performance academy or centre of excellence in place. Wenger, who has been overseeing the implementation of the FIFA Talent Development Scheme (TDS), which offers bespoke assistance to member associations to help them achieve their full potential, aims to reduce the footballing disparities between different regions around the world.

Football lovers have a big responsibility to give every country a chance to develop our sport.

Arsène Wenger
FIFA Chief of Global Football Development

Some 175 member associations have already enrolled in the TDS – surpassing the goal of 150 for the year, set when applications opened in April 2023 – with FIFA having released USD 28 million in funding globally to provide the necessary support to youth development initiatives. “I believe that we [are moving] very quickly from a society of work towards a society of sport, and football lovers have a big responsibility in that, to give every country a chance to develop our sport,” Wenger explained to delegates gathered in Jeddah, adding that as part of his plan, their existing facilities may also be considered within the FIFA Academy standards process.

FIFA Football Summit 2023 - FIFA Club World Cup Saudi Arabia 2023

Leaders urged to stop “cancer” of violence against referees

In an impassioned speech, Pierluigi Collina, the chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee, urged the football leaders gathered in Jeddah to take affirmative action to stop violence against referees, a problem he referred to as a “cancer” that threatened the very life of the sport. “This is not acceptable. Enough is enough,” Collina said. “This is the cancer that can kill football. It’s true. I beg the leaders of football around the world to do something before it is too late.” In his own remarks, FIFA President Gianni Infantino also emphasised that the referees were FIFA’s Team One. “Without referees, there’s no football,” he said. “We all have to fight…against any sort of abuse and violence against referees, but also to bring back respect and tolerance.” Collina also said that FIFA, which ran 388 courses for referees in 2023, was committed to developing referees globally. “We are looking for a new generation of referees all over the world,” he said. “The objective is to help you, [the] member associations, to [develop] the new Tori Penso and the new Szymon Marciniak of the future.”

FIFA Football Summit 2023 - FIFA Club World Cup Saudi Arabia 2023

FIFA Legends support anti-discrimination initiatives

FIFA Legends Gilberto Silva, Kaká and Alessandro Del Piero highlighted the need for action in relation to discrimination against football players in both real-life situations and online. Since 2016, FIFA has implemented a strategic programme to embed respect for human rights in all operations and relationships. This led to the three-step procedure being put in place in FIFA competitions and was followed by FIFA launching the #NoDiscrimination campaign in 2021. In advance of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, the Social Media Protection Service (SMPS) was established in partnership with FIFPRO to monitor and moderate comments on various online platforms as a next step in fighting discrimination. The SMPS has now been used in eight FIFA tournaments, including the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023, where it had a significant impact. “Nowadays, social media has been so tough for many people. In football, we see this a lot – for players, referees, football federations, the leaders, everybody, the fans,” said Gilberto Silva during a Q&A session where he spoke about his personal experiences and looked at ways of bolstering the fight against discriminatory behaviour in football. “Everybody’s suffering [from] that but also young teenagers, young kids are suffering a lot of anxiety and mental problems due to the constant abuse. This has caused a lot of problems for them because they are losing focus. Together we can stop this as soon as possible: all of us here can do our part in stopping this online abuse.”

FIFA Football Summit 2023 - FIFA Club World Cup Saudi Arabia 2023

Sarai Bareman calls on football leaders to continue investing in women’s football

FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman took to the stage at the summit to encourage leaders from all 211 Member Associations to continue building on the magnificent achievements of 2023 – and to continue investing in the women’s game, citing the Morocco squad as the perfect example of the inspiration such investment can bring. “The FIFA Women’s World Cup does so much to also motivate our member associations,” she said. “The President of the Moroccan federation was blown away by the full stadium, the experience, the atmosphere, the fans, the interest [during the 2019 tournament], and that drove him to go back to his country to invest, to really and specifically invest in women’s football, in creating a pathway. He set up academies, he employed one of the best coaches in the world to lead, and four years later, they qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 and had an incredible performance on the pitch.”

The FIFA Women’s World Cup does so much to also motivate our member associations.

Sarai Bareman
FIFA Chief Women's Football Officer

She continued: “It’s a message to the decision-makers that are in this room today: you all have the power to invest in women’s football, and we saw how quickly Morocco was able to advance, and the number-one thing that allowed them to advance that quickly was the tone at the top.” “It was the president specifically and deliberately driving forward the prioritisation of women’s football, and I’m very fortunate to also have that here at FIFA with our President. When you as decision-makers make it a top priority, the flow-on effect for that inside your federation is immense, and you can’t underestimate that.”

FIFA Football Summit 2023 - FIFA Club World Cup Saudi Arabia 2023

New FIFA Secretary General ad interim addresses delegates

Mattias Grafström took to the stage and gave an overview of how the organisation aimed to develop a cross-section of aspects of the game, on and off the pitch. First, however, he thanked the FIFA President, the FIFA Council and his predecessor, the outgoing Secretary General. “I’d like to thank the FIFA President, the FIFA Council as well for entrusting me in this mission. Being a small boy who loved football from the very beginning, it’s really an honour to serve this sport. I would also like to use this opportunity to pay tribute to Fatma [Samoura], who has been a great and inspirational leader in the past seven years.” Moving into a question-and-answer session, Mr Grafström praised the work being carried out by FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development Arsène Wenger, and looked ahead to an exciting period for FIFA, its member associations and the development of the global game. “The work Arsène and his team have been putting in place already in a number of countries is very inspiring. Having the possibility to now also have a FIFA U-17 World Cup every year gives a platform for all of you, and also expanding this World Cup to 48 teams on the boys’ side and 24 teams on the women’s side [means] giving a real platform as well for all those real talents to express themselves. But we have to start at the base, and this is why Arsène is going inside the countries in order to really help and also educate coaches in order for every talent to have a chance.” The FIFA Secretary General ad interim also discussed the important matters raised during the summit, including the success of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the expanded FIFA World Cup in 2026, the development and protection of the refereeing community, the importance of continued investment in technology and FIFA’s ever-lasting commitment to growing the commercial side of the game, to ensure revenues remain on an upward trajectory and all member associations have even more opportunities to develop the game.

FIFA Football Summit 2023 - FIFA Club World Cup Saudi Arabia 2023

Bhutan Football Federation praises FIFA Forward Programme

Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) President Dasho Ugen Tsechup also spoke about how the FIFA Forward Programme, which helps to fund football-related development projects, had helped establish football pitches in the mountainous Asian country. He told delegates how football is the number-one sport in Bhutan thanks to FIFA assistance. Since the introduction of the FIFA Forward Programme in 2016, Bhutan has been a flagship example of how a developing football nation can use FIFA programmes and initiatives to boost participation and interest levels. “We have reached all across the country,” the BFF President said. “We carried out a census on which is the most popular sport in Bhutan and football came out number one even though our traditional sport is archery. That in itself shows how much FIFA has helped Bhutan football grow.”

FIFA Football Summit 2023 - FIFA Club World Cup Saudi Arabia 2023

Leaders and trailblazers take to the stage

The Saudi Arabian Minister of Sports, HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, also took the floor, offering an overview of how football is playing a central role in the kingdom’s Vision 2030, which is the blueprint for opening up the country to the world. The summit also featured on-stage contributions from FIFA Council member Rodolfo Villalobos, Football Association of Indonesia President Erick Thohir, Chilean Football Association President Pablo Milad and Polish Football Association President Cezary Kulesza. Saudi Arabian Football Federation Vice-President Lamia Bahaian and women’s national-team captain Bayan Sadagah also appeared and spoke passionately about the development of the game in Saudi Arabia – and the opportunities, on and off the field, that it had provided them.

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