FIFA finances ‘extremely solid’

MANAMA: FIFA president Gianni Infantino claimed yesterday that the finances of football’s governing body were “extremely solid”, despite it posting a $369 million loss earlier this year. Speaking at the Asian Football Confederation’s congress in Bahrain, Infantino said the losses were in line with FIFA’s “business model” and there was no need for it to give “artificial” figures.

“In spite of what some have been trying to write or to say, FIFA’s finances are extremely solid,” Infantino told delegates in a short address.  He added that it was normal for FIFA to make losses for three years and then “make revenue” during the fourth financial year, when a World Cup takes place. “That’s how the business model is conducted,” he continued.  “We don’t need to tell you other stories, we don’t need to make our figures artificial (or) look better by some accounting measures. “The situation is that the finances of FIFA are extremely solid.” FIFA has said previously that its losses could increase throughout this year, but rebound in 2018 to a profit of $1 billion, largely due to TV deals from the Russian World Cup.
Infantino was speaking a day after FIFA formally announced a partnership deal with Qatar Airways for the Gulf carrier to be its “official airline” for a host of major tournaments, including the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.  Under the terms of the deal-unlikely to appease FIFA critics-the Gulf carrier will also sponsor the 2017 Confederations Cup, the Club World Cup, and the women’s World Cup. It comes as FIFA struggles to find new sponsors since corruption scandals which engulfed football’s governing body in 2015.

Dodd loses Council vote
Yesterday’s congress also saw the AFC finally elect members to the all-powerful FIFA Council. China’s Zhang Jian, South Korea’s Chung Mong Gyu and the Philippines’ Mariano Araneta were all elected unopposed. The third seat was made available after Kuwaiti powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, who is facing corruption allegations in the US, which he denies, stood down.

The council seat reserved for a woman delegate was won by Bangladesh’s Mahfuza Akhter Kiron, who beat Australia’s high-profile candidate Moya Dodd 27 votes to 17. The original vote had been delayed since last September when the AFC abandoned their extraordinary congress in Goa after just 27 minutes. That meeting was abruptly cancelled after Saoud Al-Mohannadi, the Qatar Football Association vice-president, was stopped at the very last minute from standing for election for the FIFA council. He was then banned from football for a year after being accused of not cooperating with a FIFA corruption enquiry.

However, last month, in a rare reversal, Mohannadi won his appeal against the ban handed down by a FIFA ethics committee. This exoneration came too late for him to apply to stand for the council again. He was present for the vote yesterday, but made no comment afterwards.  The AFC president, Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa, raised the prospect that the ban on Iraq from hosting football matches could soon end.  “Hopefully we will see some news from our council in the next two days,” he said. “Hopefully Iraq will have friendly games very soon.” The main FIFA congress also takes place in Bahrain this week, on May 11. _ AFP

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