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FIFA heads for record $7bn revenues

DOHA: FIFA is on target to reap record revenues of seven billion dollars on the back of this year’s Qatar World Cup, president Gianni Infantino said Thursday as experts predicted a long-term financial boom for football. Infantino told the annual congress of the sport’s world governing body that FIFA’s finances were “great” and that it would beat its target of making $6.4 billion in the four years up to 2022 by $600 million.

The governing body has seen revenues from television, sponsors and marketing take off despite past scandals and the coronavirus pandemic when spectators have turned more to television screens and other new platforms. FIFA said in its accounts that it expects “television broadcasting rights to have set a new record” by the time of the World Cup final on Dec 18.

FIFA, whose finances run on a four-year cycle between World Cups, reported revenue of $766 million for 2021 – level with 2019 and up from a pandemic-hit $266 million in 2020 – and by the end of last year already had $6.11 billion of its target income contracted. Most income falls into FIFA accounts in the year of the World Cup tournament. And despite the controversy over giving this year’s World Cup to Qatar-which has faced criticism over its labor rights – revenues have boomed since the last World Cup in Russia.

The finances were so good that FIFA spent more than one billion dollars on pandemic recovery measures in football and still increased its cash and asset reserves by 21 percent to $5.5 billion. “The financial position of the organization remains healthy and robust,” the global body’s accounts said modestly. Infantino also announced on Thursday he will stand for re-election for a third term as president of FIFA.”I want to tell you that I will be standing for re-election next year,” Infantino said at the congress.

Meanwhile, Infantino on Thursday tried to distance himself from a highly controversial project to hold the World Cup every two years as he suggested the plan had never actually been proposed by world football’s governing body. “Let me be very clear that FIFA has not proposed a biennial World Cup,” Infantino said on the stage.

Despite that, Infantino has pushed the project in recent months along with Arsene Wenger, the former Arsenal manager who is now FIFA’s head of global development. Infantino claimed at a virtual global summit to discuss the topic last December that playing the World Cup more regularly would offer enormous financial benefits for member federations.

Then, FIFA promised an extra $19 million every four years for each national federation, based on feasibility studies projecting major revenue increases. Yet Infantino had to put off holding a vote on the subject due to vociferous opposition from all sides. It had initially been thought the subject would feature prominently at Thursday’s congress in the Qatari capital, but the agenda was instead dominated by the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as well as the build-up to the World Cup.

The project has been lambasted by almost all sides, with UEFA and South American governing body CONMEBOL uniting in their opposition and even moving towards organizing a transatlantic Nations League after 2024. The European Club Association as well as leagues and players have voiced their disapproval too. The Confederation of African Football did give its backing, but even the International Olympic Committee expressed concerns about more frequent World Cups drawing attention away from other sports.

However, Infantino later indicated that there was still some hope of eventually reviving the project. “We are looking at all options. We will take the time it takes with the utmost understanding of all positions,” he said. He also said that plans for an expanded, 24-team Club World Cup remain alive despite the pandemic forcing the indefinite postponement of the first edition. – AFP

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