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Covid-19: GFA to benefit from FIFA's $1.5 billion relief fund

By Vincent Ashitey
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The Ghana Football Association (GFA) is to receive $1 million from football's world governing body FIFA as part of a $1.5 billion being made available for the football community as part of a COVID-19 relief plan.

Ghana, like other FIFA member associations, will receive an additional grant of $500,000 from the world body specifically for women's football.

Following a FIFA Council meeting via video conference on Thursday, which unanimously approved a revised budget for the 2019-2022 cycle, the GFA, and other association will be eligible to apply for interest-free loans amounting to up to 35 per cent of their audited annual revenues.

The meeting also endorsed changes to the international match calendar as well as approved the COVID-19 Relief Plan and also selected Australia and New Zealand as joint hosts of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan

The FIFA Council unanimously approved the FIFA COVID‑19 Relief Plan, which was designed by the FIFA administration in close cooperation with representatives of the confederations. Across its three stages, this global support plan will make available up to $1.5 billion to assist the football community.

In the first two stages of the plan, FIFA provided for the immediate release of all FIFA Forward operational‑cost payments to member associations and, subsequently, for the opportunity to transform Forward development grants into COVID-19 operational relief funds -– with a minimum of 50 per cent of released funds to be allocated to women’s football.

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In stage three, approved by the FIFA Council further financial support will be provided through a system of grants and loans:

Grants: a universal solidarity grant of $1 million will be made available to all member associations, and an additional grant of $500,000 will be allocated specifically to women’s football. In addition, each confederation will receive a grant of $2 million.

Loans: member associations will be able to apply for interest-free loans amounting to up to 35 per cent of their audited annual revenues. In the interest of solidarity, a minimum loan of $500,000 will be available and a maximum of $5 million. In addition, each confederation will have access to a loan of up to $4 million.

Both grants and loans can be directed by member associations to the wider football community in their respective territories, including clubs, players, leagues, or others that have been affected.

Governance model: to ensure effective oversight of the plan, there will be strict controls on the use of funds, audit requirements, as well as clear loan repayment conditions. A FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan steering committee will also be established to supervise the administration of the scheme.

Olli Rehn, the deputy chairman of the FIFA Governance Committee, has been appointed to lead this committee. He is also the 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.

As a next step, the principles of the plan will be consolidated in a set of regulations to be put forward to the Bureau of the FIFA Council.

Revised budget

The members of the Council approved the 2021 annual budget and the revised budget for the 2019-2022 cycle, both of which were the result of a comprehensive assessment of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

International Match Calendar

As a result of an extensive consultation process with the confederations and stakeholders across the football landscape, the COVID-19 FIFA-Confederations Working Group agreed to put forward five proposals in relation to the Men’s International Match Calendar in the wake of the pandemic.

Below are the five proposals, which were unanimously approved by the FIFA Council:

To move the intercontinental play-offs for the FIFA World Cup 2022 from March 2022 to June 2022;

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To postpone the September 2020 window for the AFC, CAF, CONCACAF and the OFC;

To proceed with the September 2020 window as planned for CONMEBOL and UEFA, subject to continued monitoring of the situation;

To extend the October 2020 and November 2020 windows by one day for UEFA in order to facilitate the playing of three games instead of the current two; and

To extend the June 2021 window by seven days for the AFC, CAF, Concacaf and the OFC in order to facilitate the playing of four games instead of the current two.

The COVID-19 FIFA-Confederations Working Group and the stakeholders’ task force will continue their work of monitoring the situation in each confederation, discussing alternative solutions and, if required, putting forward any further proposals to the FIFA Council.

The FIFA Council also supported a pan-Arab tournament to be played in 2021: an invitational competition for men’s national teams that will be contested by Arab nations from Africa and Asia.

It will involve home-based players only and be played outside the International Match Calendar. The tournament, which will be held in Qatar from December 1-18, 2021, will be delivered by the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC and will allow the organisers to use facilities and run operations that are also planned for the subsequent FIFA World Cup 2022.

Furthermore, FIFA’s decision-making body approved the updated Regulations for the Olympic Football Tournaments Tokyo 2020, adapting them to the new dates of July 21 to August 7, 2021 and including the adoption of VAR technology.

There are no changes to the eligibility rules for players taking part in the men’s tournament (i.e. players born on or after January 1, 1997, with the exception of a maximum of three players per participating team).

Regulatory framework

o Following the establishment of a dedicated working group by the Football Stakeholders Committee, the work of which was also endorsed by the Players’ Status Committee, the Council was presented with a proposal to amend the FIFA Regulations Governing the Application of the Statutes, particularly concerning the eligibility of players to play for national teams.

The amendments include, among others, the new provisions relating to the exceptions to the general prohibition on changing associations and the access to national team football for stateless players. The Council has recommended that the statutory changes be put forward for approval by the FIFA Congress.

 The new FIFA Anti-Doping Regulations -– in compliance with WADA’s recently approved World Anti-Doping Code -– were also approved by the Council and will come into force on January 1, 2021.

The next Council meeting is scheduled for September, ahead of the 70th FIFA Congress, which will be held on 18 September 2020. Both will be organised as virtual events held by videoconference rence.