Wednesday 16 September 2020, 17:51

Rehn: FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan achieving right impact

  • Olli Rehn is FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan Steering Committee chairman

  • FIFA’s COVID-19 Relief Plan will see FIFA making up to USD 1.5 billion available to the international football community

  • Process is ongoing, applications received from over 150 FIFA member associations

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruption in the world of football, and FIFA has moved quickly to help address this with the adoption of its COVID-19 Relief Plan. Olli Rehn, who chairs the FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan Steering Committee and who acts as FIFA Governance Committee Deputy Chairman, has been overseeing the operation of the plan, launched for the benefit of FIFA’s 211 member associations and six confederations.

Today, Rehn – who is also Governor of the Bank of Finland, a member of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank and a former Vice-President of the European Commission – explained more about the relief plan, outlined how grants and loans are already being put to good use and confirmed that it was achieving the right impact.

On the FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan

“At the peak of the pandemic, football had completely stopped in all but four of FIFA’s 211 member associations. It had a very dramatic impact. FIFA started immediately to gather data from member associations, confederations and other stakeholders, including clubs and players (to assess the impact on global football),” he said.

“The estimated impact of the disruption was around 14 billion USD,” Mr Rehn stated, adding that the baseline assumption in broad terms was that roughly one-third of the football economy, worth roughly 40-45 billion USD a year, had been affected by the COVID-19 crisis to date, and that the impact was still being felt.

“FIFA reacted rapidly, with the philosophy of ‘health first’, and in mid-March FIFA President Gianni Infantino met with the Secretary General of the World Health Organization to discuss how football could help to tackle (problems arising from this) pandemic,” he added. “Our internal discussions began soon afterwards on how to set up a FIFA COVID relief fund by using FIFA’s financial reserves to help member associations, clubs, players, staff and youth academies.”

On governance, compliance and accountability

“The work that FIFA has done over recent years in reforming its governance and auditing structures has ensured that the organisation is in a strong financial position and (is) therefore able to implement this plan. By providing the best possible financial support to member associations and confederations, the Steering Committee and FIFA administration, FIFA is also committed to implementing the highest compliance and auditing standards,” Mr Rehn explained.

With the FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan Steering Committee comprising three members, with Mr Rehn as chairman and supported by Molly Rhone from Jamaica and Muhannad Hamad from Bahrain, the group has retained a global dimension, and it maintains the necessary levels of transparency and accountability with regard to the management of funds.

“Every single member association and confederation that receives funding from FIFA will be audited – in fact, audited twice: once by the auditors sent by FIFA under the current system (of central reviews) and once by (their own) statutory auditors,” Mr Rehn confirmed. “The implementation of the COVID-19 relief plan is an ongoing process and so far we have received applications from over 150 member associations. The steering committee is working hand in hand with the FIFA administration in order to oversee the implementation of the relief plan and (to help achieve the right social and economic) impact to support football.”

Examples of where the FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan is already working

“If you look at Thailand, they are using funds to resume its national league, including COVID-19 tests and starting the use of VAR (Video Assistant Referee),” Mr Rehn added. “Mexico is using FIFA funding of 1.5 million USD for its women’s league, while Brazil is using the funding to support purchasing COVID-19 tests for their women’s league, and in Uruguay the payment will be used to ensure that staff members at the member association who were let go can be rehired, allowing the member association to operate. These are some examples and ultimately the benefits will be seen in the long term, because the relief plan is to enable clubs and member associations to overcome the current crisis and work towards the future.”